The Trump administration is increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan and, by doing so, keeping us involved even longer in a 16-year-old war that has long since gone past its time.
The mission in Afghanistan has lost its purpose, and I think it is a terrible idea to send any more troops into that war. It’s time to come home now.
Our war in Afghanistan began in a proper fashion. We were attacked on 9/11. The Taliban, who then controlled Afghanistan, were harboring al Qaeda, and after being warned, and after an authorization from Congress, our military executed a plan to strike back. Had I been in Congress then, I would have voted to authorize this military action.
But as is typical, there was significant mission creep in Afghanistan. We went from striking back against those who attacked us, to regime change, to nation-building, to policing their country for them. And we do it all now with an authorization that is flimsy at best, with the reason blurred, and the costs now known. We do it with an authorization that was debated and passed before some of our newest military personnel were out of diapers. This isn’t fair to them, to the American people, or to a rational foreign policy.
The Afghanistan war going beyond its original mission has an enormous cost. First and most important is the cost to our troops. Deaths, injuries and unnecessary deployments causing harm to families are certainly the most important reason as to why you don’t go to wars that aren’t necessary.
Then comes the taxpayer. We have spent over $1 trillion in Afghanistan, and nearly $5 trillion on Middle East wars in the past 15 years. Would we not be better off with $5 trillion less in debt or using these funds in other, more productive ways?
Nation-building should not be our job, and it has consistently been a fool’s errand for us, particularly in this region. There is no reason to believe we can do it in Afghanistan, and certainly no reason to believe we can do it without a permanent, costly presence in the country.
So I strongly disagree with the administration’s actions here. I’ve spoken to the president, and I know he wants to end this war. We’ve all heard him say it. But talk won’t get it done. Although I’ve been informed that the president rejected larger expansions of troops than the one announced this week, that’s not good enough. He should have rejected this one and stuck to his principles. He knows this war is over, and he – unlike the last two presidents – should have the guts to end it for real, on his watch.
Regardless of the argument over the number of troops, I also will insist my colleagues take up a larger argument over the power to declare war. I believe we have allowed the executive to exercise far too much power in recent years.
This is one of the reasons I objected just before the recess when the Senate moved to consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I have an amendment that I will insist be considered that would repeal the 2001 AUMF on Afghanistan. That AUMF is outdated, overcome by events, and provides a feeble bit of cover for people who still want to be there.
If the president and my colleagues want to continue the war in Afghanistan, then at the very least Congress should vote on it. I’ll insist they do this fall, and I’ll be leading the charge for “no.”
Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.