The Joint Chiefs chairman took the opportunity Friday, at the Pentagon’s Sept. 11, 2001, remembrance ceremony, to not only recognize those who gave their lives during those terror attacks and have since died fighting in their wake, but to share a reminder of what everyone has been fighting for.
It was one of Army Gen. Mark Milley’s rare public appearances in recent months, after getting caught in a political firestorm while accompanying the president June 1 for a photo op at a church across the park from the White House, as protests decrying police brutality against Black people raged around the country.
“The idea of a free press, free speech, due process,” he cited as examples. “The right to peacefully assemble, and demonstrate and protest.”
And that all Americans are created free and equal, he added, and should succeed based on their merit, regardless of their backgrounds.
“Those ideas were and still are hated by our enemies — by fascists, Nazis, communists, al-Qaida, ISIS, authoritarians, dictators and tyrants of all kinds. They hate those ideas. They hate those values.”
Of nearly 3,000 killed on 9/11, 184 were service members and civilians in the Pentagon. In the years since, more than 7,000 have while serving in the Global War on Terrorism, which has most notably seen fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but has spread throughout the Middle East and Africa, into parts of Europe and Asia. More than 53,000 have been injured, according to Defense Department Statistics.
“We honor the legacy of our brave service members who have laid down their lives to secure the blessings of this great nation,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in his remarks.
The United States will pull thousands of troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan by November, the top American commander for the Middle East said Wednesday, as President Donald Trump tries to make good on his campaign promise to get America out of “endless wars.”
Nineteen years after the attacks that, in one way or another, begot nearly continuous operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, neither official mentioned those ongoing conflicts, or recent orders from the White House to draw down troops there.
“Unlike previous administrations I have kept America out of new wars, and our troops are coming home,” President Donald Trump said Aug. 27 during a campaign event.
On Wednesday, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, who leads U.S. Central Command, announced that he planned to draw down troops in Iraq to 4,500 in time for the presidential election.
“We’re on a glide slope to be at 4,500 by the November time frame — October, late October, November time frame,” the Associated Press reported. “At 4,500 we’re still going to be able to accomplish the core tasks that we want to accomplish, And we’ve shown more than ample goodwill and our willingness to demonstrate that we don’t want to be an occupying force in this country.”
At the same time, CENTCOM has been redeploying troops from Afghanistan, bringing levels down to 8,600 in June. In an interview with Axios aired in August, Trump called for that to drop by another 50 percent before the election.
McKenzie said Wednesday that a date for that withdrawal had been determined but declined to share it.