Some in Congress want to keep sending our troops to Afghanistan
In its 19th year now, the United States has been locked in a bloody and seemingly endless war in Afghanistan. After accomplishing our initial objectives and exacting justice in response to the 9/11 attacks, the mission in Afghanistan went awry. Our efforts in the country can no longer be directly tied to our national interest, and the price — human and financial — is staggering.
The Trump administration has initiated a strategy to end our part in the conflict and responsibly bring our troops home. The current timeline aims to have all troops out of Afghanistan by early 2021, or even sooner. This is an encouraging development and the president should be applauded for his effort to end our involvement in what is now the longest war in American history.
However, members of Congress on the House Armed Services Committee, led by Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Jason Crow (D-Colo.), added an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that would restrict the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and indefinitely extend America’s bloody entanglement in that country.
The amendment was framed in part as a response to reports of allegations that the Russian government paid bounties to the Taliban and affiliated groups in Afghanistan to kill American troops. This amendment’s disconcerting solution: keep troops in Afghanistan, giving our adversaries — whether Iran, Russia, or non-state actors – the opportunity to cheaply harm American forces, while distracting the U.S. from more pressing national security priorities.
The loss of any American servicemember is a tragedy; but regardless of whether reports of bounties are ultimately corroborated, we should not allow ourselves to be baited into remaining bogged down in Afghanistan.
Whatever their motive, these members of Congress advanced an amendment that would keep troops in harm’s way, potentially leading to the unnecessary loss of more American servicemembers and the expenditure of more taxpayer dollars. The Cheney-Crow amendment would only exacerbate what has been a misguided policy in Afghanistan, jeopardizing American lives and needlessly prolonging our involvement in a war that we no longer need to fight. Accordingly, this measure should be stripped from the defense authorization bill when it reaches the floor of the House of Representatives for a full vote.
President Donald Trump is not alone in wanting to end the Afghan War. Based on recent polling, a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan is supported by more than two-thirds of the American people – including 73 percent of military veterans. Even past supporters of increased military engagement in Afghanistan have admitted it is long past time for American troops to leave Afghanistan. In his recent book, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a strong proponent of the 2009-2010 U.S. military surge in Afghanistan, acknowledged, “I believe we — and the Afghans — would have been better served had our military departed in 2002 and had thereafter relied on non-military instruments of national power.”
Ensuring the safety of our servicemembers should be a top priority for Congress. But the Cheney-Crow amendment seemingly prioritizes scoring political points over the well-being of our troops, regardless of how its supporters frame it. Though the amendment enjoyed bipartisan support in the House Armed Services Committee, another bipartisan contingent of representatives stood up in opposition. This effort was led by Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of President Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a former co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaign.
It is our hope a similar coalition of principled lawmakers can come together to defeat this atrocious amendment. Failure to do so could prolong American military involvement in Afghanistan and lead to the loss of more of our brothers and sisters in uniform, without advancing American security.
Nate Anderson is executive director of Concerned Veterans for America and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Dan Caldwell is a senior adviser to Concerned Veterans for America and a veteran of the war in Iraq.
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