Washington: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has scotched reports and uncertainties coming out of his recent health condition and surgery as he was backing the Biden administration’s reportedly closer move to a deadly drone strike as a strong response to the Jordan attack that killed three US troops.
Austin, who faced reporters for the first time since he was hospitalised on January 1 due to complications from prostate cancer treatment, addressed questions about his failure to notify the president of his condition. He apologised for how he handled communications around the cancer diagnosis.
“I want to be crystal clear. We did not handle this right. And I did not handle this right,” he said during his first press conference in months.
“I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public, and I take full responsibility,” Austin said adding , “I apologize to my teammates and to the American people.”
He faced questions that were divided between potential responses to the deadly drone attack and his handling of the medical condition.
Biden Reaches Decision on Response to Drone Attack: Austin said that he was still working through leg pain and that he is undergoing physical therapy. But he said that “no one” recognises what a demanding job the position is more than him as he is likely eager to set aside health concerns ahead of any Pentagon response to the attack.
He couldn’t put his recovery timeline in terms of days or weeks, saying improvements will be “incremental.” “I won’t be ready for the Olympics, but I’ll improve,” Austin was quoted by the US News and World report as saying.
Austin’s reassurances come as developments this week hinted that a US response to the drone attack in Jordan is imminent.
CBS News reported on Thursday that US officials have approved plans “for a series of strikes over a number of days against targets - including Iranian personnel and facilities - inside Iraq and Syria.”
Weather will be a big factor in determining when the strikes will take place, CBS News reported. Earlier this week, Biden said that he knew how he wanted his administration to respond to the attack. And Austin on Thursday said it was “time to take away even more capability than we’ve taken in the past” from Iran-backed militias. (IANS)