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Shaheen Supports Bill to Create Nonpartisan, Independent Afghanistan War Commission

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, joined Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in introducing the Afghanistan War Study Commission Act to establish a nonpartisan, independent commission to examine every aspect of the war in Afghanistan, including the political and strategic decisions that transformed a focused military mission into vast, nation-building campaign that became the longest war in our nation’s history. The goal of this commission will be to produce actionable recommendations designed to guide the development of real reforms in order to ensure that our nation not only learns the right lessons from our 20 years in Afghanistan, but ensures the same mistakes are never made again.

“The war in Afghanistan was our nation’s longest war, spanning multiple generations. The difficulties of the final days of the U.S. withdrawal was not the result of overnight policy, but rather the culmination of two decades of inconsistent strategies. We owe all Americans, and particularly those who served the U.S. mission and those who made the ultimate sacrifice, a fully transparent and clear accounting of the last twenty years of war. We cannot afford to repeat those mistakes. That is why I’m glad to join Senator Duckworth on this bill to direct a nonpartisan, comprehensive review of the last twenty years of U.S. engagement in Afghanistan. I will continue to work with my colleagues to examine the events that unfolded in Afghanistan and guide U.S. policy going forward,” said Shaheen.

Specifically, the Afghanistan War Study Commission Act would establish an independent commission to:

  • Examine all U.S. combat operations, irregular warfare operations, intelligence actions, diplomatic activities and the interagency decision-making and coordinating processes used in the War in Afghanistan. The commission would span the entirety of the War—from the September 11, 2001, attacks through the conclusion of the military evacuation on August 31, 2021;
  • Study the use of authorities for conducting the Afghanistan War, the effectiveness of Congressional oversight efforts and the strategic decisions made throughout the course of the war;
  • Investigate actions by all U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of State and the Intelligence Community. It would also examine the U.S. efforts with our allies and partners;
  • Ensure its members are nonpartisan and chosen in equal numbers by the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction for Armed Services, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs, with one additional member from the Administration. The Commissioners would be experienced policy professionals from all corners of the federal government with no direct history of involvement in operational or strategic decision-making in the Afghanistan War to ensure objectivity;
  • Provide lessons learned and actionable recommendations in a public and unclassified report, with a classified annex for Intelligence Community matters. The report would allow the United States to learn from our experience in Afghanistan and ensure those mistakes are never repeated.

Shaheen long expressed deep concerns about the United States’ unconditioned withdrawal from Afghanistan, particularly out of concern for the immediate danger facing Afghan women and other groups vulnerable to the Taliban’s violence and oppression. Senator Shaheen repeatedly fought to make the inclusion of Afghan women in negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government a U.S. foreign policy priority. Earlier this year, Senator Shaheen met virtually with women members of Afghanistan’s Parliament to discuss the rights and futures of women and girls in Afghanistan. Shaheen also raised her concerns about the safety of women and girls with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing. During a congressional delegation visit to Afghanistan in 2019, Shaheen met with a group of Afghan women who described how dramatically their lives had improved since the Taliban government was toppled nearly two decades ago. Shaheen is the author of the Women, Peace and Security Actwhich was signed into law in 2017 and ensures women’s leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations. Last month, Shaheen participated in a live virtual discussion hosted by The Washington Post to discuss the future of Afghan women and girls.

Senator Shaheen historically partnered with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on efforts to protect Afghans who’ve risked their lives to support U.S. diplomatic efforts abroad by strengthening the Afghan SIV program. She continues to lead bipartisan efforts in Congress to reauthorize additional Afghan SIVs. The President signed into law key provisions from the Afghan Allies Protection Act, a bill led by Shaheen and Senator Ernst, as part of spending legislation. Their legislation helps protect the Afghan civilians who risked their lives to support the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, Shaheen questioned Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and top military officials during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of U.S. military operations and future U.S. policy in Afghanistan.