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U.S. Marines in the middle of a sand storm during patrol in Bakwa, Farah province, Afghanistan, May 3, 2009. (Photo: Lance Cpl. Brian D. Jones/ DVIDSHUB/cc/flickr)

U.S. Marines in the middle of a sand storm during patrol in Bakwa, Farah province, Afghanistan, May 3, 2009. (Photo: Lance Cpl. Brian D. Jones/ DVIDSHUB/cc/flickr)

With No End After 15 Years, Thoughts Turn to Who Will Inherit Afghan War

"In the campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, somehow the ongoing military intervention in Afghanistan has been completely forgotten."

Lauren McCauley

Marking 15 years since the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan on Friday, critics of America's "longest war" are demanding President Barack Obama work to end the protracted—and largely forgotten—conflict before it is handed over to the next commander in chief.

"After fifteen years of endless war, Americans need to demand answers from the Obama administration and Congress on two crucial questions," said Jon Rainwater, executive director of the United States' largest peace organization, Peace Action. "First, is this longest war in U.S. history making us safer? Second, has it been worth the immense cost in lives and billions of dollars? The only honest answer to both questions is a resounding no."

And while Rainwater insists that a "strategic withdrawal of American forces," coupled with non-military efforts to "help heal the wounds of a devastating war," is "long overdue and should be a priority of the next administration," he points out that there has been no discussion of the 15-year war from either the Democratic or Republican camps.

Similarly, the organization Afghans United for Justice wrote at Ricochet on Friday: "In the campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, somehow the United States' ongoing military intervention in Afghanistan has been completely forgotten."

The group, which is dedicated to Afghan self-determination, further notes that "[b]oth the Republicans and Democrats drive home the idea of American exceptionalism and superiority, all while refusing to acknowledge the country's longest war."

Hoping to address that silence, peace group Win Without War is circulating a petition calling on the presidential candidates to "release a comprehensive plan and timetable detailing how and when you will end America's longest war."

As Rainwater notes, "With election day around the corner, Americans deserve to know what (if any) plans the candidates for commander in chief have for bringing our nation's longest war to an end, because 'stay the course' isn't going to cut it."

Indeed, the United States' "righteous war of revenge" has been a "wretched adventure," as Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the Independent, put it.

The war has claimed the lives of an estimated 2,346 American troops, including the latest casualty, Army Staff Sgt. Adam Thomas. Meanwhile, estimates of civilian deaths range from 31,000 to as many as 116,000, according to a 2015 report (pdf) by Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Detailing the "intractable muddle" that the "next U.S. president will inherit" from Obama, author Mark Perry wrote at Politico: "In all, the U.S. has spent over $850 billion on the Afghanistan war, suffered nearly 2,400 dead and the Taliban are not only back in the field, they've made steady progress in wresting control of the country from the U.S.-backed Afghanistan government."

As Fisk noted, the war has not only fueled a massive exodus of Afghan refugees, but the Taliban's "progress" has allowed to group to expand throughout the Middle East into another seemingly endless conflict.

"Long before" Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces, Fisk wrote, "bin Laden's own al-Qaeda movement had morphed into Iraq and then into Syria and is now, after at least two name transfusions, the best known is al-Nusrah, fighting the Assad regime in Syria, especially in the rubble of eastern Aleppo, where we rightly weep for the civilians but respectfully call Nusrah the 'rebels.'"

However, he adds, "not a soul today suggests that the folly of our assault on Afghanistan has a narrative which leads all the way to the tragedy of Syria."

The solutions are manifold, but most critics of the war say that repealing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) is a place to start.

As Middle East analyst Catherine Shakdam wrote Friday, in passing the AUMF, Congress gave a "grand carte blanche to the White House," which "set a dangerous legal and political precedent that essentially paved the way for militarized politicking." President Obama has used that war authorization to justify military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and Libya.

And, without repeal, Congress is set to hand that "blank check for war" on to his predecessor, either Clinton or Trump.

"By authorizing military action with vague descriptions of acceptable targets and no geographic or time limits, Congress has effectively placed the question of whether or not this country goes to war—and whether or not it remains at war—in the hands of one individual," Peace Action's Rainwater concludes, "and such an affront to the Constitution cannot be allowed to continue." 

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