After the U.S. War in Afghanistan passed the 17-year mark this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) turned to Twitter on Wednesday with an assertion popular among advocates for peace: "It's long past time to reexamine why we're in Afghanistan, and whether keeping our troops there is making us any safer. It's long past time to bring our troops home."
Linking to a BuzzFeed News report that pointed out that the military is struggling with recruitment among young Americans—including those who were born after the war began in 2001 and are now old enough to enlist—Warren lamented the numbers of Afghan civilians and U.S. soldiers who have been killed or wounded, and how the U.S. justification for being in Afghanistan has continued to shift over time.
"We went to Afghanistan to defeat al-Qaeda—instead we have become deeply involved in a civil war that no amount of American military willpower, elbow grease, or ingenuity will bring to an end," Warren said. In addition to calling for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, she also demanded that soldiers receive adequate healthcare and other benefits when they return home.
This week marks the beginning of America’s 18th year at war in Afghanistan. During that time, more than 2,000 brave US servicemembers have been killed, over 20,000 wounded, and tens of thousands of civilians have died. https://t.co/GSxOI59Yh0
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) October 10, 2018
It’s long past time to reexamine why we’re in Afghanistan, and whether keeping our troops there is making us any safer. It’s long past time to bring our troops home. And when they return, we need to make sure they get the health care, GI benefits, and support they've earned.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) October 10, 2018
Warren's remarks followed Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pointing to the $700 billion in military spending that lawmakers approved earlier this year and declaring, "The time is long overdue for a vigorous discussion about our foreign policy, and how it needs to change in this new era."
We spend $700 billion a year on the military and have been at war in Afghanistan for 17 years and Iraq for 15. The time is long overdue for a vigorous discussion about our foreign policy, and how it needs to change in this new era. #SandersSAIS
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 9, 2018
As the U.S. military struggles to recruit new soldiers from a disillusioned and disengaged public, BuzzFeed reports that its leaders are worried "the cost of the U.S. War on Terror is being borne by an increasingly smaller number of families, isolated and unnoticed by the rest of the country."
Writing for OtherWords this week, Stacy Bannerman of Military Families Speak Out detailed the impact the seemingly endless war has had on families, and demanded, "Support the troops, America: Bring them home now. Enough folded flags."
As Bannerman wrote:
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Unfortunately, America's amnesia didn't prevent Command Sergeant Major Tim Bolyard from being killed in Afghanistan in early September during his eighth combat tour and 13th deployment.
Eight combat tours—which should be illegal—sent Bolyard down-range repeatedly in a war President Obama purportedly ended over three years ago. A war this country forgot long before that.
A nation that doesn't remember the men and women sent to fight on its behalf has no business whatsoever sending more. And a democracy that spends more time debating kneeling before the flag than the justification for issuing folded ones desperately needs to get re-acquainted with the Constitution—and its moral compass.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)—a combat veteran who lost both her legs while serving in Iraq—also referenced the raging public debate over athletes kneeling or silenting protesting in some other way during the national anthem to direct public attention to police brutality and racism in the United States.
"We've had more discussions about people kneeling during the national anthem than we have about when the war in Afghanistan is going to end," Duckworth said at a recent event, according to BuzzFeed.
Although recruitment numbers and public awareness of the 17-year-old war have declined, BuzzFeed notes that "the U.S. military footprint across the globe has expanded rapidly since former president George W. Bush ordered U.S. troops into Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom on Oct. 7, 2001. The U.S. still has 15,000 troops in Afghanistan, but last year Americans also died in combat in places like Yemen, Niger, Syria, and Somalia, where most people back home—including some members of Congress—were not even aware the U.S. was fighting."
The war in Afghanistan is now 17 years old, making it the longest-running war in U.S. history. But why did the United States invade Afghanistan in the first place, and is anyone winning this war? pic.twitter.com/fWYBwSZLFO
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) October 9, 2018
While some members of Congress have failed to keep tabs on U.S. military action abroad—even as war profiteers like Blackwater founder Erik Prince have pressured President Donald Trump to pour even more U.S. tax dollars into waging war on the world—others lawmakers including Duckworth, Sanders, and Warren continue to demand more critical public discourse about where the United States is engaging in armed conflicts, why, and at what cost.
As journalist Rania Khalek noted in a video breaking down the war on Tuesday, that includes answering to the more than a million allegations of U.S. war crimes that Afghans have submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Keeping with the age-old American tradition of rejecting the ICC's legitimacy, the Trump administration has refused to cooperate and even threatened sanctions against any court officials who probe claims made against the United States or Israel.