November 04, 2021

Duckworth Effort to Create Nonpartisan, Independent Afghanistan War Commission Gains Bipartisan Support in the Senate

Senator will also offer her legislation to help ensure our nation never makes the same mistakes again, which received other key endorsements from both sides of the political spectrum, as a bipartisan amendment to the upcoming NDAA


[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), 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, today announced that U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) will cosponsor her Afghanistan War Commission Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Duckworth’s now-bipartisan legislation would 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. The Senate is expected to take up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 NDAA in the coming weeks.

“The War in Afghanistan was shaped by four different administrations and 11 different Congresses—no party should be looking to score cheap, partisan political points off a decades-long nation-building failure that was bipartisan in the making,” said Duckworth. “Congress owes the thousands of American servicemembers who sacrificed in Afghanistan a serious, honest and long-term effort devoted to bringing accountability and transparency, and I’m glad Senator Young is joining my effort to create an independent, nonpartisan commission aimed at ensuring we learn from mistakes made over 20 years in Afghanistan and implement reforms to ensure those mistakes are never repeated.”

“Our country invested two decades in Afghanistan only to see it collapse in a matter of days. It is essential that Congress examine what occurred both in the Biden Administration’s disastrous withdrawal and over the last 20 years to ensure we learn all that we can about how this occurred. I am proud to join Senator Duckworth to introduce the Afghanistan War Commission Act as an amendment to the NDAA. Assembling a nonpartisan Commission that cuts through the bureaucratic processes and helps us craft recommendations about where we go from here will be instrumental in keeping Americans safe,” said Young.

Duckworth’s legislation was recently endorsed by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) and VotesVets. In part, the groups wrote in a joint statement: “Concerned Veterans for America and VoteVets traditionally find ourselves on opposing sides of most issues. On the issue of ending endless wars and establishing a comprehensive, objective, and nonpartisan Commission on the Afghanistan War, we stand united, and we ask Congress to follow our example. […] Establishing a comprehensive, objective, and nonpartisan Commission on the Afghanistan War is essential to preventing costly, unnecessary conflicts and endless war in the future. We commend Senator Duckworth, a veteran of the Iraq War, for her leadership and urge her colleagues in the Senate to join this commonsense effort.”

Specifically, Duckworth’s bipartisan legislation would 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 the September 11, 2001, attacks 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. 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; and
  • Issue biennial reports to Congress on the status of declassification efforts to ensure classified findings and recommendations are eventually released to the public.

Along with Duckworth and Young, the amendment 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), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). 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. Legislative text can be found here.

During a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing last month, 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 served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years and is Chair of the SASC Airland Subcommittee. She 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.