It’s Time for U.S. Troops to Leave Afghanistan

Extending the deployment of American forces won't enable the Afghan people to rebuild their own nation or stabilize the central government.

U.S. soldiers climb a hill in Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers climb a hill in Afghanistan (Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

This year, the United States marks 18 years of combat in Afghanistan. We remember and honor the more than 2,300 brave U.S. service members who made the ultimate sacrifice and the over 20,000 who have been wounded in action. We thank the courageous men and women in uniform who are still abroad, a world away from their homes and families, fighting this war.

Soon, we will reach a watershed moment in Afghanistan, as American soldiers begin deploying to fight in a war that began before they were born. As we meet this solemn milestone, we must reexamine our approach to the longest war in the history of the United States and reconsider whether keeping tens of thousands of troops on a sprawling mission in Afghanistan will make Americans any safer going forward. And we must listen to the American people, who—overwhelmingly—oppose endless war in the Middle East.

That’s why we recently introduced a bipartisan joint resolution, the American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act, to return our combat forces home from Afghanistan in an orderly and responsible way, while also setting a framework for political reconciliation in Afghanistan without a permanent U.S. presence.

It’s not the first time we’ve issued this call. In 2011, President Barack Obama proposed pulling all regular combat troops out of Afghanistan by 2014. “It is not too late to change course,” we wrote at the time, calling on the president to accomplish his goal by the end of 2012. It’s now 2019—and our forces are still deployed in Afghanistan.

Our brave women and men in uniform have served with valor, honor, and effectiveness. It is Congress that has failed to assert its constitutional duty to conduct forceful oversight over the war in Afghanistan, which has now been waged for nearly two decades. Congress must step up and step in to ensure that another generation of Americans is not sent to fight a war with no end in sight, especially when there is no military solution to the challenges facing Afghanistan.

For nearly two decades, and under three presidents—both Democratic and Republican—we have committed America’s blood and treasure toward securing Afghanistan. On top of the thousands of American lives lost and forever changed, as the mission has dragged on, we have been left with the fraying of vital relationships and a bill greater than what our nation spent on the Marshall Plan—upwards of $2 trillion.

Despite the exceptional efforts and extraordinary sacrifices of our armed forces and diplomatic corps, we still face enormous obstacles that will not be solved by military force—ranging from rampant corruption fueled by billions of dollars in multilateral aid to a drug-trafficking problem that has upended the rule of law to deep-seated issues of governance that demand a political solution.

By now, it’s clear that American troops have achieved the mission they were sent to carry out in October 2001, including the removal of al-Qaeda’s base and the death of Osama bin Laden. But the continued commitment of our troops will not enable the Afghan people to rebuild their own nation or stabilize the central government. We should not risk more American lives, or continue squandering more than $51 billion each year on these impossible tasks.

We urge our colleagues in Congress to step up to the plate and do our jobs as laid out in the Constitution—to evaluate whether our continued interests in Afghanistan justify the enormous sacrifices required of the brave women and men serving there. The AFGHAN Service Act will enable Congress to act as the Constitution envisioned, bringing our troops home after nearly two decades of courageous service.

For their heroism and valor, our legislation says “Thank you” by ensuring we recognize and honor that service. Drawing from the billions saved by ending the war in Afghanistan, our bill provides a $2,500 bonus within one year to all the members of our volunteer military who have served in the Global War on Terrorism.

Endless wars require endless resources and endless sacrifices. We simply cannot maintain a prolonged military footprint in Afghanistan, putting more Americans in harm’s way and pouring billions of dollars into an endless war, while also addressing the urgent needs we face at home and abroad. The troops who have served valiantly in support of America’s mission in Afghanistan deserve no less. It is time for us to bring them home.