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Secret hospitalization. Pentagon headache

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized on Monday, January 1, after experiencing severe pain following a routine medical procedure.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin spent several days in the hospital and was unable to perform his duties. But even US President Joe Biden doesn’t know about it. How did this happen?

Hospitalization conditions

The US Department of Defense publicly announced the hospitalization of 70-year-old Lloyd Austin only on January 5. The brief press release said that on the evening of January 1, the minister was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with complications from a routine medical procedure, but that he is recovering and returning to full duty.

As Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder clarified, Austin underwent a planned medical procedure on December 22 and returned home the next day. However, on the night of January 1, he began to experience severe pain, after which he was taken to the hospital and placed in the intensive care unit.

No one knows

On January 2, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks assumed some of the responsibilities of her boss, Lloyd Austin. He himself was on vacation in Puerto Rico at the time — and didn’t even know Austin was hospitalized at the time, two Pentagon officials told CNN on condition of anonymity.

Moreover, his deputy was not the only one who did not know about Austin’s hospitalization. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United States President Joe Biden were also not notified. According to a CNN source familiar with the situation, Biden did not learn of Austin’s hospitalization until several days later. He was informed of this by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who himself learned that Austin was in the hospital on the night of January 4.

The same Ryder told CNN that the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Charles Quinton Brown, was notified of Austin’s hospitalization on January 2. But, as the TV channel notes, it was not under the ministry. As a result, Austin’s chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, sent notifications of the chief’s hospitalization to the deputy secretary of state, national secretary and national security adviser only on Thursday. According to Ryder, he was unable to do so because of illness (which the Pentagon press secretary did not explain).

Questions for the Pentagon

The incident left many officials with questions for the Pentagon, and Austin himself faced harsh criticism. The Republican Party demanded an explanation from the minister. “Many questions remain unanswered, including what was the medical procedure and the complications that arose, what is the current state of the Secretary’s health, how and when the transfer of his duties was effected, and the reason for the delay on notifying the President and Congress,” the Republicans said.

Sen. said. Roger Wicker, the highest-ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said the lack of transparency about Austin’s hospitalization “undermined the credibility of the Biden administration.” He called it unacceptable that the Pentagon withheld information about the Secretary of Defense’s health for several days.

While Austin was hospitalized, on January 4, the United States conducted a drone strike in Baghdad, targeting the commander of the pro-Iranian group Al-Nujaba. As Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder clarified, Austin gave permission for this strike even before he was hospitalized.

On the day of his hospitalization, the minister participated in a conversation with the US President, where the worsening situation in the Red Sea due to attacks by Yemeni Houthis on foreign ships was discussed. Austin sounded normal on the call, CNN’s source said.

As CNN notes, the delay in publicly reporting Austin’s hospitalization is all the more surprising given other similar examples. For example, in 2022, when US Attorney General Merrick Garland underwent surgery, the Justice Department released a detailed statement about it a week before the procedure. Austin himself spoke publicly in August of that year about testing positive for Covid, reporting in detail about his symptoms and his last contact with the US President.

On January 6, five days after the US Secretary of Defense was hospitalized, the Pentagon released a statement from Austin himself. The minister thanked the doctors who treated him at the hospital, said he understood “the media’s concerns about transparency,” and admitted that he “could do a better job to make sure the public is properly informed.” “I promise to do better. But it’s important to say: this is my medical procedure and I take full responsibility for my decisions to disclose information,” he added.

Biden spoke with Austin that same day, a White House source told Politico. The publication’s interlocutor noted that the president still has full confidence in Austin. Politico said the relationship between the defense secretary and the US president is considered close and that Austin has yet to face criticism inside or outside the Biden administration.

Austin’s health status is still not completely clear to many White House officials, but some of them, in a conversation with CNN, note that this situation is unlikely to affect the favorable attitude of the president of America to the minister. According to another source close to the head of the White House, Biden has long believed that personal matters can be confidential – even if it involves a government official.

Source: korrespondent

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