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12 Jan, 2024 12:39

US defense secretary ordered Yemen strikes from hospital – CNN

Lloyd Austin suffered complications after treatment for cancer, but did not inform the White House of his whereabouts
US defense secretary ordered Yemen strikes from hospital – CNN

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered and oversaw the overnight strikes on dozens of Houthi-related targets in Yemen from a hospital bed, CNN has reported, citing an anonymous senior Pentagon official. The US defense chief was hospitalized on January 1 for complications after prostate cancer surgery, keeping President Joe Biden and Congress in the dark about his condition for days.

The Defense Department first mentioned Austin’s absence last Friday, saying he had resumed his duties. However, over the weekend, it was revealed that he was still at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, working remotely. Hospital officials said that the defense secretary had undergone a “minimally invasive surgical procedure” on December 22 but had to be readmitted on January 1 for a urinary tract infection and was placed in an intensive care unit.

The doctors added that the official “continues to make progress,” but a full recovery may prove to be a “slow process.

Asked when President Biden found out about Austin’s cancer diagnosis, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby acknowledged on Tuesday that the commander-in-chief “was informed today.

In its report on Friday, CNN quoted the unnamed defense staffer as saying that “Secretary Austin gave CENTCOM the order today to execute the strikes and monitored real-time with a full suite of secure communications capabilities.” They added that following the strikes on military facilities in Yemen believed to be connected with the Shiite militant group, the defense chief spoke with the National Security Council, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the CENTCOM Commander.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Pentagon’s inspector general notified the defense secretary and his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, that it would launch a review later this month to “assess whether the DoD’s policies and procedures are sufficient to ensure timely and appropriate notifications and the effective transition of authorities as may be warranted due to health-based or other unavailability of senior leadership.

On Monday, Republican Congressman Matt Rosendale announced that he would seek the impeachment of Austin over his supposed “violating his oath of office time and time again.” Aside from the secretary’s failure to inform the president and Congress of his illness, the lawmaker also cited the haphazard exit of US troops from Afghanistan in August 2021.

Several other GOP politicians have since called for Austin’s impeachment, including presidential race frontrunner Donald Trump.