Minister Xhaçka, General Kollçaku, distinguished guests.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
I could easily fill my time today listing all the line items of donations and cooperation among our defense establishments. Believe me, the list is long. It includes armored vehicles for your Light Infantry Battalion Group, a Cyber Response Center, and of course, helicopters. But hardware is only one aspect of our defense cooperation. This long list also includes more than one million dollars’ worth of flood response equipment and more than 800 thousand dollars in humanitarian assistance each year. Nearly every day of the year, there are U.S. forces here in Albania. These soldiers live and work with their Albanian counterparts to reinforce our strong bonds of friendship. In fact, the feedback from nearly every engagement is that the Albanian forces are some of the most professional and lethal forces they have ever worked with.
So instead of focusing on “What” we do, I will instead talk to you about the “Why” and the “How.”
To me, the “Why” is simple: The United States supports the Albanian Armed Forces because they have proven countless times over the years that they are ready, willing, and able to fight side-by-side with American and NATO troops anywhere, anytime, under any conditions, and without caveats. This statement is inarguable, even in the face of casualties suffered. Additionally, Albania has honored the Wales Summit Pledge and continues to increase spending on National Defense towards the goal of 2% of GDP per year. The United States applauds Albania for its commitment to NATO burden-sharing and supports its continued efforts through 2024.
While the “What” and “Why” are important, today is about the “How.” How we are able to do all the things we do together.
The answer is simple. It is the people you see before you today.
Individuals from both countries who work day-in and day-out to ensure that Albanian and American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen are ready to go into dangerous environments, side by side, and make any potential adversary think twice before engaging NATO forces.
To the civilian and military leadership of the Albanian Armed Forces: You continue to give the highest priority to training with American forces — thank you. The strength of our bilateral relationship is immeasurable and unbreakable thanks to you. To the American staff of our Defense Attaché and Defense Cooperation Offices: Your diligence directly results in the constant growth of our level of engagement — thank you. And finally, to the Albanian staff members of these teams: You are the beating heart of Albanian-American defense cooperation. None of this is possible without you. You make travel arrangements in Albania, Europe, and the US; you ensure spare parts clear customs quickly; you manage all the logistics and budgets for Foreign Military Sales cases; you schedule every aspect of more than 100 events every year. In short, without your hard work behind the scenes, nothing else is possible. Thank you.
Thank you minister Xhacka for recognizing the efforts of the Attaché and Defense Cooperation Teams.