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Topeka-Capital Journal: ‘We need to be very cautious about utilizing our military': Jerry Moran reflects on Afghanistan and 9/11
Sep 03 2021
Topeka Capital-Journal | Jason Tidd
As the war in Afghanistan ends and the United States approaches the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran wants Congress to follow the Constitution in future wars.
He also wants soldiers who fought the war to know the problems in Afghanistan are the fault of suits in Washington, D.C., not servicemen and servicewomen.
"It's just a reminder that we need to be very cautious about utilizing our military," Moran said Thursday when asked to reflect on lessons learned over the two decades since 9/11. "If we're going to ask people to go to war, too often no one sacrifices except those who are serving and their families. The rest of the country needs to be brought into a decision about going to war and needs to experience the support necessary for the ongoing effort.
"Too often, we make a military decision, and it has public support for a short period of time. We need to make the case to the American people before we utilize lives of men and women. And I would encourage from now on that we no longer use authorizations of force and we do what the Constitution requires us to do, which is an actual declaration of war, which would put Congress much more in a position of making a decision whether this is a good idea, a bad idea, how beneficial it would be to the country to sacrifice."
The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war, but it hasn't approved a formal declaration of war since World War II.
Last American troops left Afghanistan Aug. 31
The last American troops left the war-torn country on Aug. 31, ending America's longest war. But the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force, approved one week after the terrorist attacks, apparently remains on the books.
More than 2,400 American troops died in the Afghanistan war. The Kansas Historical Society military index shows 67 Kansans were killed in the Afghanistan war. The number includes personnel whose home of record was in Kansas or who were attached to Kansas-based military units.
Despite 20 years of military occupation, the chaotic U.S. retreat came as Taliban fighters quickly seized control of the country last month.
"We were on a path that was brighter than where this story now ends," said Moran, who visited Afghanistan four years ago. "And there were lots of evidence of Afghans working to try to make their country a better place. But ultimately, we were dealing with a government that couldn't govern, and corruption exists."
Evacuations continued for about two weeks after the capital of Kabul fell and the democratic government collapsed. A terrorist attack outside the international airport killed 13 American service members and at least 169 Afghan civilians.
President Joe Biden has faced bipartisan criticism for the hectic withdrawal and the apparent lack of preparedness.
Jerry Moran criticizes Biden administration's Afghanistan exit
Moran, who was in Topeka on Thursday for a tour at Washburn University, has been among the president's critics. He has called for the Senate to be called back into session to have hearings from administration officials.
"The problems we face as a result of the way we're coming out of Afghanistan certainly are not the consequence of someone serving Afghanistan in a uniform," Moran said. "It's about people who wear suits in Washington, DC, who made decisions that I think create huge problems, a humanitarian crisis and a national security issue that will not go away."
Moran encouraged Kansans to reach out to veterans to make sure they know their service was respected
"Servicemen and women who served in Afghanistan, are troubled by what they're hearing, seeing and reading," Moran said. "They're troubled by the fact that they have an interpreter or someone else who work side by side with them that's still in Afghanistan."
He said messages to the veterans suicide hotline are increasing, but not just from Afghanistan veterans. Many Vietnam veterans in particular have been troubled by the similarities between how the two wars ended.
The Veterans Crisis Line provides free, confidential support and crisis intervention by calling 1-800-273-8255, texting to 838255 or chatting online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Mistakes, failures and preventing a terrorist safe haven
The Afghanistan war was fought under the supervision of four presidents: George Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Biden.
It was the Trump administration and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who negotiated the peace deal with the Taliban. The original withdrawal deadline under Trump's deal was May 1, but Biden extended it to Aug. 31.
"The deadline, in my view was a mistake," Moran said. "If you set a deadline, don't say it publicly. And if you don't have what you need to accomplish by that date, then set aside that deadline."
Moran also criticized past administrations for the "lack of preparedness," especially on creating an immigrant visa program for Afghans who helped American troops.
"It was not evident if there was an effort that occurred in past administrations to make certain that the people who needed to be removed from the country had a path out," he said. "No evidence of that, as we departed this in this past month."
Moran said his office has information on about 1,000 cases of individuals, groups, families, churches, missionaries and others who have been left behind without an escape plan.
"We have failed in that regard to a lot of people who would be relying upon us for our help," he said. "They helped us and we, at the moment, are failing them."
He said he remains supportive of efforts to keep Afghanistan from becoming a "terrorist haven." He also anticipate hunger and famine in the country and a need for humanitarian aid.
The Republican senator said the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks should be a reminder of how Americans came together after the attacks and political partisanship was diminished in Washington, D.C.
Also, "It's a reminder that when we ask young men and women to go to war, we ought to have a plan for how we succeed in that effort," Moran said.