Saturday, 20 July 2019

Bill in US Congress seeks end to Afghan war

NEW YORK: Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would end the nearly two-decade-long Afghanistan War.

The 2019 American Forces Going Home After Noble Service Act would have the United States declare victory in Afghanistan and set a 45-day deadline for a plan to withdraw all U.S. forces within a year, according to a statement accompanying the bill’s text.

It would also set a “framework for political reconciliation to be implemented by Afghans.”

Additionally, the legislation would require the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to be repealed at the end of the withdrawal. Passed in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the AUMF has come under political scrutiny in recent years as it is still used to bypass Congress in justifying military operations against terrorist groups.

And the bill would have the federal government pay, within one year, a $2,500 bonus to the more than 3 million military service members who have served in the war — a one-time cost of about $7 billion. That bonus would be “an immediate savings of over 83% when compared to the current yearly costs,” the statement says.

“Endless war weakens our national security, robs this and future generations through skyrocketing debt, and creates more enemies to threaten us,” Paul said in the statement.

“For over 17 years, our soldiers have gone above and beyond what has been asked of them in Afghanistan,” he added. “It is time to declare the victory we achieved long ago, bring them home, and put America’s needs first.”

Trump administration officials are currently in high-level negotiations with Taliban leadership to end America’s longest-running armed conflict.

The talks reportedly include a floated plan that would cut the roughly 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan by half within the next few months, with all troops withdrawn within the next three to five years.

Rand’s office notes that more than 2,300 service members have been killed since the start of the war in October 2001, with more than $2 trillion spent on the conflict.

Udall echoed the sentiment, arguing that U.S. service members will soon begin deploying to Afghanistan “to fight in a war that began before they were born.” “As we face this watershed moment, it’s past time to change our approach to the longest war in our country’s history,” he said.

The bill was quickly lauded by the Koch-backed Concerned Veterans for America, which said Paul and Udall “highlight a growing sense across the country that American military involvement in Afghanistan has run its course and potentially become counterproductive to our interests.”

The push to end the Afghanistan War appeared elsewhere in Congress on Tuesday, with a group of Democratic and progressive lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), sponsoring a pledge from a veterans group to “end the forever war.”

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