Statement: Afghanistan War Hearings Focus Too Much on Final 20 Days, Lack Reckoning with Last 20 Years

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WASHINGTON — Win Without War Senior Washington Director Erica Fein released the following statement regarding this week’s House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) hearings on Afghanistan, for which Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified:

“20 years of U.S. war in Afghanistan failed. It was right to end the U.S. military occupation. Despite areas of disagreement, the past two days of hearings on the U.S. war in Afghanistan have made clear that the decision to withdraw was a popular one.

“In this week’s hearings, very few members of Congress questioned the decision to withdraw itself, focusing on the implementation of the withdrawal instead. While good faith attempts to provide oversight of the U.S. military’s final days in Afghanistan are welcome, the execution of the withdrawal is merely a symptom of the failed military occupation. Congress – who largely spent 20 years asleep at the wheel – owes much more to our fallen service members, to the people of Afghanistan, and to all those in the United States whose lives were touched by the war. True accountability for the U.S. war in Afghanistan means looking deeper than the events of the last month, exposing the lies the Pentagon told to fund more war, and reckoning with the full extent of the failure of the endless war approach.

“A number of critical questions went unaddressed or under-addressed in these hearings: how the United States would provide Afghanistan with humanitarian aid; whether the generals who lied to the American public be held accountable; how decades of spending on war — often backed by corrupting special interests — meant trillions of dollars not spent on healthcare, education, housing, or climate action; whether the United States would commit to raise the refugee cap to ensure that all those seeking refuge in the U.S. can find it; and, how the administration would work with Congress to examine in full the tragedies of 20 years of war and ensure that they never happen again.

“There were, however, some crucial moments of accountability. Rep. Malinowski, for example, recognized that the withdrawal of ground forces does not on its own mean the end of the failed war-first approach, and Rep. Omar called attention to the ongoing devastation of drone warfare and the importance of redress payments for victims. Senator Markey called for funding allocated for the now-defunct Afghan security forces to be reallocated toward helping Afghans, and pushed to raise the refugee cap. And Senator Schatz rightfully accused the foreign policy establishment of focusing on tactics and implementation in order to deflect from the fact that their entire pro-war strategy was a failure from the start.

“Far too many Republicans in both the House and the Senate, meanwhile, used these hearings to launch blatantly bad faith and misleading political attacks: focusing on the withdrawal while ignoring the two decades of failed warfare that preceded it, stoking xenophobia against Afghan refugees, and otherwise attempting to score cheap political points at the expense of any real reckoning with the costs of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

“There must be accountability for the U.S. role in Afghanistan. But that accountability must begin at the start of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, and it must end with the United States doing everything possible to support those who suffered as a result of our policies.”