September 28, 2021

Duckworth: We Need a Comprehensive, Independent and Honest Review of Our Nation’s Involvement in Afghanistan Since 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

Duckworth also advocated for the swift and safe return of Illinoisan Mark Frerichs who is still being held hostage in Afghanistan


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — During today’s U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) 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, combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) advocated for a comprehensive, expansive and bipartisan examination of the lessons learned from our nation’s 20 years of involvement in Afghanistan and announced that she will be introducing legislation this week that would create an independent commission to do just that. Duckworth also pushed for the safe return of Mark Frerichs and secured a commitment from Austin that he will continue supporting negotiations efforts to safely bring Frerichs home. Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years and is Chair of the SASC Airland Subcommittee. Video of the Senator’s remarks can be found here.

Key quotes:

  • “After investing two decades, nearly two trillion dollars and most importantly, the lives of almost 2,500 servicemembers, our nation must conduct a thorough and honest review of the United States government’s involvement in Afghanistan since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”
  • “No party should be looking to score cheap, partisan political points off a multi-decade nation-building failure that was bipartisan in the making.”
  • “Although military options have ended, an Illinoisan and a Veteran of the U.S. Navy, Mr. Mark Frerichs is still being held hostage in Afghanistan… Secretary Austin… can you please update me on your discussions regarding Mr. Frerichs with your foreign counterparts as well as your interagency partners? And I know his family is probably watching this testimony today.”

After Frerichs was abducted by the Taliban, Haqqani network or their affiliates in Afghanistan, Duckworth and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) have repeatedly called on both the Trump and Biden administrations to prioritize his safe return, including writing letters to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the anniversary of his abduction. During a SASC hearing this past May about the transition of troops out of Afghanistan, Duckworth discussed her concern for the safe return of Frerichs and secured a commitment from Mr. David F. Helvey, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, to pursue opportunities to advocate for Frerichs’ safe return. In July, Duckworth spoke with Secretary Blinken about the importance of securing his safe release. In August, she and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin wrote to President Biden to request that the National Security Council (NSC) immediately convene an interagency meeting of the Principals Committee to develop a course of action to secure the release of Frerichs.

Duckworth recently discussed the importance of our communities welcoming the Afghan allies and partners who assisted the U.S. mission during a visit to Moline, Illinois. Duckworth also joined a bipartisan Congressional Delegation visit to Fort Lee, Virginia, to help welcome Afghan interpreters and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients relocated to the U.S. after they put themselves and their families at great risk by supporting the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Duckworth also penned an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times yesterday on why we should step up and help Afghan refugees who are resettling in the U.S.

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.