Speed Reads

biden-harris transition

Biden cites Gen. Austin's experience pulling troops out of Iraq as major reason for his defense nod

With some questions arising across the political spectrum about his decision to tap a recently retired general to lead the Defense Department, President-elect Joe Biden penned a piece for The Atlantic explaining his choice Tuesday.

Biden looked back on his experience overseeing the drawdown of American troops in Iraq in 2010, when Gen. Lloyd Austin commanded forces in the country. "General Austin got the job done," Biden wrote. "He played a crucial role in bringing 150,000 American troops home from the theater of war. It required Austin to practice diplomacy, building relationships with our Iraqi counterparts and with our partners in the region. He served as a statesman, representing our country with honor and dignity and always, above all, looking out for his people."

Additionally, the next secretary of defense "will need to immediately quarterback an enormous logistics operation to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines widely and equitably," Biden noted, and Austin's experience in charge of the "largest logistical operation undertaken by the Army in six decades" would likely help make that process smoother.

Biden did acknowledge the concerns about granting another waiver to a retired general — military personnel are supposed to wait seven years before becoming secretary of defense, and Austin only left in 2016 — just a few years after an exception was made for retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, but he argued it's warranted "given the immense and urgent threats our nation faces," which he believes Austin is "uniquely matched" to meet. Read more at The Atlantic.