President Obama visited Afghanistan over the
Memorial Day weekend,
pledging that “our war in Afghanistan will finally come to an
end.” America’s war in Afghanistan began with Operation Enduring
Freedom on October 7, 2001, and at more than 13 and a half years is
America’s longest war.
The authority to wage the war was drawn from the Authorization
of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress passed after the
September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. About a year later, the Bush
Administration sought, and received, a second AUMF to wage a war in
Iraq. Since then, however, American counterterrorism operations
have been dovetailed into the 2001 AUMF not just in Afghanistan and
next-door Pakistan but around the world. As Gene Healy
notes here at Reason.com today, the Obama Administration does
not seem all that interested in repealing, or even “refining,” the
AUMF like President Obama promised to do last year. It shouldn’t
come as a surprise.
Although the last of U.S. combat troops were pulled out of Iraq
in December 2011, a bill to repeal the Iraq AUMF—which enjoys the
nominal support of the Obama Administration—was only introduced
in the Senate this January, and has not yet been considered
by committee. And just as President Obama tried
to postpone the end of the Iraq war by insisting on a
residual force of 10,000 troops, he is hoping to keep a U.S.
military presence in Afghanistan past the end of the year, despite
his declaration that the war in Afghanistan is ending.
“America’s commitment to the people of Afghanistan will endure,”
in a speech at Bagram Air Force Base. “With our strategic
partnership, we’ll continue to stand with Afghans as they
strengthen their institutions, as they build their economy, as they
improve their lives.”
The president also pointed to the “bilateral security
agreement,” an agreement worked out in principle earlier this year
that the outgoing Afghan president,
Hamid Karzai, has nevertheless left up to his successor to
decide to sign.
Both of the candidates vying in next month’s run-off say they
support the agreement which, according to President Obama, would
allow the U.S. to “plan for a limited military presence in
Afghanistan beyond 2014.”
The U.S. war in Vietnam, America’s next longest conflict, didn’t
end until Congress passed with a veto-proof majority a law
prohibiting military operations in 1973. Until then, President
Nixon had insisted the war was ending under the Nixon Doctrine and
“Vietnamization,” wherein the U.S. would hand security
responsibilities in South Vietnam to the government there, similar
to what President Obama envisions for
Afghanistan after 2014.