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Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

Bipartisan Afghanistan War Commission Act introduced to create investigative body on Afghanistan war, lessons learned

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U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced this week a legislative amendment that would create a nonpartisan commission to examine the war in Afghanistan, mistakes made therein, and recommendations for avoiding them in the future.

“Our country invested two decades in Afghanistan only to see it collapse in a matter of days,” Young said. “It is essential that Congress examine what occurred both in the Biden Administration’s disastrous withdrawal and over the last 20 years to ensure we learn all that we can about how this occurred.”

The Afghanistan War Commission Act (H.R. 4350) would amend the National Defense Authorization Act to empower an independent commission to thoroughly examine the long-running war. Young touted its independent tag as one helpful to its efforts — a means to avoid bureaucratic red tape and get to helpful recommendations.

Under the commission, essentially all aspects of the U.S.-led war would be on the table: running from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks until the conclusion of the military evacuation on Aug. 30, 2021, across combat and intelligence operations, diplomatic actions and interagency decisions, and coordinating processes. Congressional oversight would itself be studied, alongside government agency activities and strategic decisions affecting the war, both by the U.S. and its efforts with allies.

“The War in Afghanistan was shaped by four different administrations and 11 different Congresses—no party should be looking to score cheap, partisan political points off a decades-long nation-building failure that was bipartisan in the making,” Duckworth said. “Congress owes the thousands of American service members who sacrificed in Afghanistan a serious, honest, and long-term effort devoted to bringing accountability and transparency, and I’m glad Senator Young is joining my effort to create an independent, nonpartisan commission aimed at ensuring we learn from mistakes made over 20 years in Afghanistan and implement reforms to ensure those mistakes are never repeated.”

The bill specifically demands nonpartisan members for the commission, chosen equally by the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate committees for Armed Services, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs. All would need federal policy experience, but those with direct involvement in operational or strategic decision-making in the Afghanistan war would be barred. With biennial reports to Congress on declassification efforts, the commission’s most important role would nevertheless be to provide a report on lessons learned and actionable recommendations, publicly provided, to guarantee past mistakes are not repeated.