With Afghanistan War Commission, a Chance for Accountability At Last

Here in Red Sox Nation, baseball fans are given to wearing T-shirts that read “Yankees Suck!” Another local sentiment, perhaps even more widespread, goes like this: “Congress Sucks!”

All the more reason, therefore, to celebrate those occasions when Congress does the right thing. Such a moment is now upon us. A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, recently passed by the House of Representatives, calls for the creation of an “Afghanistan War Commission.” Apparently, the Senate is primed to concur, with the final bill expected to reach President Biden’s desk after the New Year. All of that qualifies as cause for celebration.

A distinguishing feature of the “forever wars” launched in the aftermath of 9/11 has been a near-total absence of political and military accountability. Now Congress appears poised to subject the longest of those wars to critical assessment. Crucially, the commission’s proposed mandate extends well beyond the massively mismanaged and embarrassing evacuation of Kabul in August that marked the 20-year war’s dismal conclusion. It will instead subject the entire war to a comprehensive examination. Included in the commission’s mandate, according to the draft legislation, are “all matters relating to combat operations, reconstruction and security force assistance activities, intelligence activities, and diplomatic activities” spanning the entire period from June 1, 2001 to Aug. 30, 2021.

The legislation specifically tasks the commission with examining “key strategic, diplomatic, and operational decisions” during the war itself along with “decisions, assessments, and events that preceded” the conflict. It also charges the commission to “develop a series of lessons learned and recommendations for the way forward that will inform future decisions by Congress and policymakers throughout the United States Government.”

Read the full article in The Boston Globe.