Channel 1 Los Angeles
9/11/2020 Washington D.C.
Today, we remember and honor the nearly 3,000 people who were killed in the terrorist attacks in our country 19 years ago on September 11. We have made great strides to defeat al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups that seek to do us harm, and our efforts to protect our homeland continue today. The men and women of the U.S. Department of State are proud to stand side-by-side with partners from all over the world in this effort, and we will not waver in our resolve to hold terrorists accountable as we pursue peace, security, and justice.
Today, we join with people across the globe in remembering the victims of 9/11. Those who were lost will never be forgotten. We continue to pray for guidance, wisdom, and protection for the men and women in uniform who fight each day to guard the world against terrorism, and we pray for the families whose loved ones were lost nineteen years ago.
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
En Route to Doha, Qatar
QUESTION: So this is obviously the anniversary of 9/11 here into – when we get there. Can you tell us the importance of that as well, the significance of this meeting (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. Look, I don’t think there’s any American who doesn’t remember that day, any American who’s 25 or 24 or older who remembers, was old enough to be watching the TV screen that day or be living in New York City that day. I remember, I was in Kansas running my small business. I remember getting a call from my wife saying to turn on the TV and go see what’s going on. I remember the anger. I remember the righteous indignation that we all had, and America has responded to that in a way that was wholly justified, enormously successful and appropriate, and now is a moment to put Afghan – Afghanistan on the next step in its trajectory.
There’s jihadists in the world still. There’s still counterterrorism work to do. President Trump is deeply mindful of that. We’ll continue to ensure that we protect the homeland and do all the things necessary to reduce risks from terrorist acts, not only from Afghanistan but from Syria, Iraq, Asia, from all of the – from al-Shabaab, all the places where there are terrorists. America will still do its part to make sure that we’re reducing risks to the homeland as well.
QUESTION: So, Mr. Secretary, two quick questions. Do you think the U.S. is prepared to withdraw troops from Afghanistan fully, even before an agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan Government is signed? And then second, what do you make of the reports from the UN and others that the Taliban continue to shelter foreign fighters, al-Qaida elements but also other foreign fighters? And are those a large enough threat to change the U.S. calculus on this at all?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So those are two connected – those questions are actually connected to each other.
SECRETARY POMPEO: There are a series of commitments that the Taliban have made. We have every expectation that they will follow through on them. Our commitment to reduce our forces to zero is conditioned on them executing their obligations under the agreement. So we’re very clear about their responsibilities with respect to terrorist activity taking place in Afghanistan that is plotting against external – an external – plotting external operations. It’s very clear that the violence levels have to come down to acceptable levels. Look, we saw just yesterday, maybe the day before, there have been a lot of spoilers out there. There are people who don’t want this to go forward. They want America mired in this place. They don’t want peace in Afghanistan. Most Afghan people want that; that’s what we’re going to stay focused on.
And so as for our force posture – the President’s said and I think General McKenzie said yesterday that by late fall we’ll be down to roughly 4,500 U.S. soldiers. There’ll still be a significant number of Resolute Support Mission soldiers. I’m mindful, too, it’s not just Americans who are at risk there. There are an enormous number of international forces who have sacrificed as well in this fight for the last 19-plus years. We want everyone to have the chance to reduce the risk, reduce their forces.
And so our movement to the appropriate levels will be consistent with the two goals the President laid out when I became Secretary of State – two goals. One, reduce our forces there. Get as close to zero as quickly as you can get to that number. We’re intent on doing it and we’ve made real progress. Second, you can’t sacrifice security for the homeland.
So we – I believe those objectives are both achievable between what we’ve done and what the Department of Defense has achieved over these last couple of years. We’ve made real progress on both objectives.