9/11 Remarks by General John R. Allen, Commander, International Security Assistance Force

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KABUL, Afghanistan–(ENEWSPF)–September 11, 2012  — Remarks by Gen. John R. Allen, commander, International Security Assistance Force commemorating the 11th anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001:

Good afternoon.  Thank you very much for coming today, ladies and gentlemen.  It’s a great pleasure and honor to see you all at this ceremony.   It is also a pleasure to extend a special welcome to our guest, General Sir Richard Shirreff, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.  Also, my Deputy Commander, Lieutenant General Adrian Bradshaw, and my Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Olivier de Bavinchove, both members of a great Command team and dear friends of mine.  Command Sergeant Major Capel – my Senior Enlisted leader and wingman.  I benefit every day from his presence.  To the 1st Infantry Division Band – well done. You do great credit to the Big Red One and you bring dignity to this remembrance.

I’d also like to welcome all the leaders, senior enlisted leaders, civilian colleagues, the members and friends of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.  It is an honor to speak on an occasion that means so much to us and so much to me, in so many different ways.

Today’s ceremony is a commemoration . . . a time to remember by our looking forward and making a difference . . . a time also to honor those lost.

Today we remember the tragic events that changed the course of history on September 11, 2001.  Today we remember all victims of terrorism in every nation around the world, from Madrid to Mumbai and from Jakarta to Bali to London, and innumerable other cities and towns around the world, stricken by the scourge of terrorism.  Terrorism knows no borders.  It has touched, and will continue to touch, all nations.  This is truly a global struggle in which we have all coalesced.  Eleven years on from that day, there should be no doubt about our dedication to this commitment:   commitment that was seared into our souls on that day so long ago; commitment that remains strong and unshaken.

This is my fourth commemoration of September 11th in combat . . . I observed two others in the Gulf.  Such has been the nature of our dedication, and it will not wane.

Today we remember the victims here in Afghanistan, who have suffered so terribly at the hands of the al Qaeda . . . Taliban . . . and other terrorists. . .

And perhaps most significant to all of us at this ceremony today:  We remember the precious Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians of all nations, lost in Afghanistan since that day of infamy in 2001.   We also remember those wounded in action in this war.  We pray to the Lord for their healing and for their families and the support that their families will bring to them.  

Transition:  But today we also pay tribute to the past through our commitment and service, to defend the values of freedom, and make the world a safer place.

Those of you in uniform and our great civilian colleagues with us here today:  you are here for many reasons, but you all share in common dedication to duty and service to your nation, and a willingness to selflessly sacrifice for freedom.

Just days ago, in Brussels at NATO Headquarters, I was reminded of this by one of the coalition’s Ambassadors.  He reminded the assembled Ambassadors of our reasons for coming to Afghanistan as a coalition: because terrorists can strike anywhere, and we must not allow them the spaces from which to operate.  Citing recent coalition losses from his own country, he said:  “we must not let their sacrifice be in vain . . . . we must finish what we started . . . and prevent Afghanistan from ever again becoming a safe haven again for terrorists.” 

So today and every day, the members of ISAF honor our lost loved ones by defending freedom and the right to live free from terror.  Their lives and contributions will not have been in vain.  

The people of Afghanistan are also willing to sacrifice for the values of freedom, standing by our side in this struggle, shona ba shona.  I was recently in Kandahar during Ramazan, where I offered “Zakat,” an offering to the father of an Afghan National Policeman killed by the insurgents.  He had already lost three sons in the struggle against the Taliban.

As a father of two, myself, his loss was unimaginable to me . . .  But I was struck by his courage and determination when he said – without hesitation – he would gladly send his remaining sons to war if it meant a better, a safer, and a liberated Afghanistan – the same Afghanistan we strive to support now in the period of Transition and soon in the Decade of Transformation.  

So while we remember that tragic event 11 years ago and we honor the fallen and the heroes – those who have given so much to this struggle — let us also celebrate and rededicate our own resilience and resolve as a way of honoring the past and moving forward to make a better future. 

Afghanistan is emerging from a darkness, from its past of oppression.  Afghanistan’s future is coming into focus.   

In the past year, we have made a remarkable difference together and with our Afghan partners. . .  Seventy-six percent of the population lives in areas transitioning to Afghan security lead.  Today, a majority of all operations are Afghan-led.

Afghan forces are protecting the people of Afghanistan, and in many areas, the people are no longer intimidated and terrorized by insurgent and extremist groups.   And little girls bravely walk to school, each step a step of defiance to the Taliban.  

We have seen the Afghan flag in areas it hasn’t been in years, in some cases, in decades.  We’ve seen the emergence of a young democracy . . . an Afghanistan striving to embrace the Rule of Law and struggling to rid itself of the corruption which is as much a threat to its future as the insurgency. 

Many insurgents have given up their lives of violence, choosing peace alongside their fellow Afghans, and instead, a place in Afghanistan’s brighter future – a brighter future for Afghanistan and a safer future for all of us.

A moment of tragedy forged our collective commitment to defend each other and the inalienable right to live free from terror.

The international community recognized the 9/11 attacks as that: attacks “. . .against humanity itself and the values of freedom we all share . . .”

NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said, “An attack on one is an attack on all . . .”  And in that moment, with those words . . . our nations were one.

I would like to read an email from a US Navy ensign, written to her father.  It tells of an event that occurred shortly after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. 

According to the email, she was serving aboard the guided missile destroyer, the USS DDG WINSTON CHURCHILL.  While at an undisclosed location at sea, they got a call from a German destroyer named the FGS LUTGENS.  The LUTJENS asked to come alongside of the WINSTON CHURCHILL, and as it did, the Americans saw a moving and spectacular sight.

The German warship was flying an American flag at half-mast, and the entire crew of the German ship were “manning the rails” in their dress blues.  There was also a sign on the side of the German ship, and it said, “We Stand By You.” 

Look around.  That has not changed.  We are standing by each other today.  We have shown our resilience as a coalition and continued commitment to prevent such brazen attacks from happening again.  You only have to look at the different flags on our shoulders to see something marvelous that has happened.  We have forged through the hot fire of tragedy and war a coalition of more than 50 nations, the largest in history.  Through your service today, every one of you render honor to those lost.  

The United States referred to our oldest veterans of World War II as the “Greatest Generation,” and they were.  Well, I see a new Greatest Generation before me, a generation that has been at war for 11 years, the longest war in most of our nations’ modern histories.  Many of you standing here today are on your second, third, fourth, and sometimes even fifth tours in this fight.  You are the new Greatest Generation. I’d like to recognize and thank the members of the coalition.    

There are ISAF members among us who were 7 years old and still in primary school on that tragic day 11 years ago . . . one such soldier is Signaller Scott Adams, from Dundee Scotland.  He is 18 years old and works at Camp Souter as a rifleman and protective mobility driver.  I believe he is here today – where are you Signaller Adams?  Here, in this young warrior, here is the evidence of greatness – greatness in this young generation.

Despite their young age, the soldiers of this coalition are dedicated professionals and committed to upholding the values of their nations.  After this ceremony, I will re-enlist eight US service members – and I invite you to join us for this tradition, whereby our soldiers reaffirm their loyalty and commitment to their service and upholding the values I’ve spoken of today.

In closing I would ask that you take a moment, in your own way, to reflect upon the last 11 years, solemnly remembering those we’ve lost since that September day 11 years ago.  But also take this time to reflect upon all of the things that we have accomplished as a coalition, and as we do that to honor the fallen, our predecessors.  The future is in the hands of this next Greatest Generation . . . in the hands of Signaller Adams.

I am humbled to be with you today and honored that you have come to share in this special ISAF celebration on this, the 11th Anniversary of 11 September, 2001.

Leading you in this campaign is the greatest honor of my life . . .

Thank you!

Source: isaf.nato.int