Lloyd Austin Cancels Trip After Another Hospitalization

As the United States intensifies its military actions against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the Pentagon finds itself without a leader once more. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who had been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer in December and was largely inactive throughout January, has been hospitalized again for the third time. Consequently, his planned visit to Brussels had to be canceled.

On January 5, there was surprise and concern when the Defense Department disclosed that Austin had been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since New Year’s Day due to an undisclosed medical issue, later revealed to be prostate cancer. What compounded the situation was that not even President Biden and other administration members were aware of Austin’s hospitalization.

This prompted Republicans to request a briefing on the situation and led Austin to apologize to Biden for the communication lapse. In a statement on February 1, he acknowledged that he should have informed Biden, “my team, and the American public” about his cancer diagnosis and absence from duty. The Pentagon Press Association issued a statement denouncing the incident as unacceptable.

Austin has returned to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. On February 11, his security detail transported him to the hospital due to symptoms indicating a potential bladder issue. Following medical tests, he was admitted to the critical care unit. The Pentagon stated that the duration of his stay this time is uncertain, but reassured that the bladder problem should not impede his complete recovery from cancer.

Upon Austin’s hospitalization on Sunday, his duties were transferred to his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, representing an enhancement from the previous instance when Hicks, who was on leave at the time, assumed control only the day following Austin’s hospitalization.

This latest health setback arises at a challenging juncture. Since January 11, American forces have been conducting operations against the Houthi extremist organization, while three US Army soldiers were recently slain in a drone strike in Jordan. Austin’s current illness has already compelled the cancellation of his scheduled visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels, exacerbating the already turbulent period for US military leadership. Austin was discharged from the hospital on February 13 and intends to resume his responsibilities later this week.




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