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A U.S. military plane takes off from Kabul's international airport

A C-17 Globemaster takes off as Taliban fighters secure the outer perimeter of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 29, 2021. (Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

Even as Afghan War Ends, GOP Attempts to Add $25B to Military Budget

"They want billions more for war even as we withdraw from Afghanistan. We have to stop this amendment."

Jake Johnson

Just as the United States completed its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan on Monday after two decades of war and occupation, House Republicans announced plans to push for a $25 billion increase in annual military spending—a proposal that progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups swiftly rejected.

"Now is the time to shift our investments away from endless wars and toward addressing human needs."
—Rep. Barbara Lee

Led by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, the GOP intends to pursue a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment that would add $25 billion to President Joe Biden's $753 billion topline military spending request for Fiscal Year 2022.

The House Armed Services panel—which is awash in donations from weapons makers and other major industry players—is expected to begin marking up Biden's request on Wednesday.

"Rogers' amendment would dole out $15 billion to address a spate of military unfunded priorities that weren't included in the Pentagon's budget request," Politico reported Monday. "It would add $9.8 billion to weapons procurement accounts, including money for four more Navy ships, more planes and helicopters for the Navy, Marine Corps, and National Guard, and upgraded Army combat vehicles."

Approval of the GOP's amendment would bring the House version of the NDAA—a sprawling annual defense policy bill that typically passes with overwhelming bipartisan support—into line with the Senate's. Last month, as Common Dreams reported, the Senate Armed Services Committee agreed to pile $25 billion onto Biden's proposal, which already calls for an increase over Trump-era Pentagon spending levels.

The House GOP's amendment would bring total U.S. military spending for FY2022 to $778 billion, a figure that progressives immediately condemned as unacceptable.

"They want billions more for war even as we withdraw from Afghanistan," tweeted Public Citizen, a government watchdog group. "We have to stop this amendment."

Progressive members of Congress, meanwhile, are calling on the House Armed Services Committee to block any effort to increase U.S. military spending beyond the level that Biden proposed in April.

In a letter sent Monday to Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the hawkish chair of the committee, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and 25 other House Democrats argued that "at a time when America's largest national security threat is a global pandemic, our spending priorities should embrace efforts such as increased Covid vaccination efforts abroad instead of continually increased military spending."

"Surpassing the president's request by such a large and unwarranted amount should not be the starting position of the House Armed Services Committee, particularly when current defense spending levels should already be reduced," the lawmakers wrote. "America spends more on its military than the next 11 largest defense-spending nations combined. This will remain true if the president's budget request were enacted, and the ratio will only increase under the Senate's proposal."

The latest round of congressional debate over Pentagon spending came as the final U.S. military plane departed Kabul's international airport on Monday, marking the close of a war and occupation that killed 241,000 people—including more than 47,000 Afghan civilians—and cost the U.S. $2.3 trillion. But while the U.S. may no longer have a troop presence in Afghanistan, military operations such as drone strikes are expected to continue.

"As we watch the tragic humanitarian situation unfold in Afghanistan, we must reevaluate our priorities when it comes to cutting the bloated defense budget that has enabled 40 years of blank-check wars around the globe," Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, said in a statement Monday. "Despite trillions of dollars poured into our endless military spending, this budget has failed to meet the greatest threats that our nation and our world faces today, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and the needs of 140 million people living in poverty."

"Now is the time to shift our investments away from endless wars and toward addressing human needs," Lee added.

In an analysis released earlier this month, Lindsay Koshgarian of the National Priorities Project estimated that the roughly $19 billion the Pentagon budgeted for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan in 2020 alone would be enough to fund initial resettlement costs for 1.2 million refugees.

"We'd face even lower costs to help resettle Afghans in countries closer to home—all the more reason after 20 years of war to step up with some serious resources and get it done," Koshgarian wrote. "After twenty years, we owe the Afghan people at least that much."

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