WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III thanked Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton for his country's steadfast support over the long course of the conflicts sparked by the 9/11 attacks, and said the two nations must work even more closely together for the future.
Dutton met Austin at the Pentagon a day before the Australian-U.S. Ministerial Consultations with the State Department scheduled for tomorrow. The defense leaders discussed the state of the alliance, the situation in the Indo-Pacific region and steps the countries can take together.
That the alliance is close is an understatement. The United States and Australia shared battlefields from Hamel on the Western Front in 1918, to New Guinea in World War 2, through Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the war on terrorism. The United States and Australia are treaty allies under the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty, also known as the ANZUS Treaty, signed 70 years ago.
"This past weekend, we commemorated the 20th anniversary of [the] 9/11 terrorist attacks, and that cast a special light on the 70th anniversary of ANZUS," Austin said. "Australia, one of our oldest allies, invoked the ANZUS Treaty for the first time, and the only time, after 9/11, sending your forces two decades ago to fight shoulder-to-shoulder alongside the United States."
Dutton also invoked 9/11 saying he was in New York soon after the attacks. He said 9/11 "is a reminder of the need for us to continue our relationship to stare down that evil and to deal with whatever the next century might hold."
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Dutton said the situation in the Indo-Pacific is "deteriorating" and the only way to defend the international rules-based order that has served so well is through alliances. He said this is the only way to protect the nations and the people of the region.
Dutton finished by thanking Austin for the American service members who supported Australia's evacuation of 4,100 Afghans from Kabul last month. "No other country in the world had the capacity to hold that airport," he said. "Despite the criticism, despite those with 20/20 hindsight, we achieved success in withdrawing those people … and I'm grateful for that."
The two nations share values, outlooks and freedoms, Austin said. "We're looking forward to continuing our close cooperation," he said. "I'm hoping that our discussions today will further strengthen our alliance in new and unique ways. The alignment between our countries has never been greater than it is today. We see the same challenges, we share the same sense of urgency, and we're cooperating closely on force posture, strategic capabilities, regional engagement and military operations."