Nearly 17 years into the war in Afghanistan, there is still no end in sight. Our strategy and goals for the region are murky and ill-defined—and yet, while the violence continues unabated, the media and Congress have turned a blind eye to the conflict.
Despite the trillions of dollars spent on the so-called War on Terror—a sum that could have sent every young person in the United States to college—we have invested almost nothing in a peace process to draw down our military operations.
Even worse, what started as one conflict has now ballooned into a war zone that touches nearly every corner of the globe. We are now involved in active conflicts in seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. While these wars rage on, Congress refuses to debate, vote on, and in some cases even to acknowledge our military actions.
Back in 2001, this was exactly the quagmire I feared. Just three days after 9/11, Congress voted to authorize war against the conspirators involved in the attacks and any associated forces. That legislation—known as an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)—was a blank check for any president to wage war anywhere in the world, in perpetuity, without congressional input.
As the lone vote against the authorization, I could not in good conscience support such an overly broad resolution.
In the years since, the 2001 AUMF has become a catchall to justify dozens of military operations. From drone strikes in Yemen and Libya to indefinite detentions in Guantánamo Bay and warrantless wiretapping here at home, presidents from both parties have abused this authorization to drag us deeper into wars around the world. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the war has raged on without a debate or strategy from Congress. According to a 2018 report from the Congressional Research Service, the 2001 AUMF has been used at least 41 times for military action in 18 different countries—and those are only the unclassified instances!