December 15, 2021

Duckworth Creates Nonpartisan, Independent Afghanistan War Commission as Part of 2022 Defense Bill


[WASHINGTON, DC] – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to create a nonpartisan commission to study the war in Afghanistan is set to become law after the Senate passed the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 88-11 today. This modified version of Duckworth’s Afghanistan War Commission Act will establish a nonpartisan, independent commission to examine every aspect of the war in Afghanistan in order to produce actionable recommendations to develop real reforms that ensure our nation not only learns the right lessons from our 20 years in Afghanistan, but also ensure the same mistakes are never made again. Duckworth is member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) who served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years and is Chair of the SASC Airland Subcommittee.

“Congress owes the thousands of American servicemembers who sacrificed in Afghanistan a serious, honest and long-term effort devoted to bringing accountability and transparency to the mistakes made during the 20-year war that was shaped by four administrations and 11 Congresses,” said Duckworth. “I’m so pleased that this NDAA includes my legislation to create an independent, nonpartisan commission aimed at ensuring we learn from those mistakes and implement reforms to ensure they are never repeated, and I look forward to President Biden signing it into law.”

Duckworth’s bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Todd Young (R-IN). Together, the cosponsors sit on key committees of jurisdiction that have conducted oversight of the war, including the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The legislation was endorsed by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) and VoteVets.

Specifically, Duckworth’s bipartisan legislation will establish an independent commission to:

  • Examine all U.S. combat 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 2001 until the conclusion of the military evacuation on August 30, 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, as well as leadership from both parties. The Commissioners would be experienced policy professionals from all corners of the federal government who did not serve is certain positions with decision-making authority 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; and
  • Issue a report to Congress on the status of declassification efforts to ensure classified findings and recommendations are eventually released to the public to the maximum extent possible.

During a recent U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing, Duckworth secured support for her bill from Colin Kahl, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and Lieutenant General James Mingus, Director for Operations, J3 Joint Staff. In a September hearing with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and US. Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Kenneth McKenzie, Duckworth advocated for her commission and a video of the Senator’s remarks can be found here.

Duckworth was one of the first handful of Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring from military service in 2014 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She served on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) during her four years serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.