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The content below comes from the newsletter This Week in War Powers News, provided by the Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy.

Drawdown of Troops from Afghanistan Still Ongoing

The Pentagon still expects to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by Friday despite the new defense law that prohibits funding that would allow personnel levels in the country to dip below 4,000, according to a defense statement Monday.

The fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act passed Jan. 1 states no Defense Department funds from fiscal years 2020 or 2021 can be used to drawdown U.S. troops in Afghanistan below 4,000 or 2,000 until the defense secretary submits a report to Congress that assesses what effect the reduction in forces would have on areas including risk to U.S. personnel and the ongoing counterterrorism mission. READ MORE

Biden Should Do What Trump Never Could: End America’s Forever Wars

“This is a different kind of war, which we will wage aggressively and methodically to disrupt and destroy terrorist activity,” President George W. Bush announced a little more than two weeks after the 9/11 attacks. “Some victories will be won outside of public view, in tragedies avoided and threats eliminated. Other victories will be clear to all.”

This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the war on terror, including America’s undeclared conflict in Afghanistan. After that war’s original moniker, Operation Infinite Justice, was nixed for offending Muslim sensibilities, the Pentagon rebranded it Operation Enduring Freedom. Despite neither a clear victory, nor the slightest evidence that enduring freedom had ever been imposed on that country, “U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan ended,” according to the Defense Department, in 2014. In reality, that combat simply continued under a new name, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, and grinds on to this very day. READ MORE

Progressive Rep. Ro Khanna on Holding Trump Accountable

Ending the “Forever Wars”

To pivot a bit, you took a lot of heat from people on the left for going on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show and discussing your support for ending the forever wars. Some thought you were “validating” Ingraham just by appearing on her show. Why do you think it’s valuable to go on shows like that? 

Rep. Ro Khanna: I believe in the First Amendment, and I believe that you have to reach as many audiences as possible, and you have to engage in wide debate. Laura Ingraham has millions of followers. She’s going to have millions of followers whether I go on her show or not. So the idea that I’m “validating” it doesn’t measure up with the facts. It’s one thing if I went on some show that had a small audience and was giving them a credibility boost, but Ingraham’s show doesn’t need that.

I don’t think progressives should be afraid to go into forums and articulate our ideas and build a growing coalition. Otherwise, how are we ever going to get our policies through? Now, if someone is on those programs, I think that they have an obligation to speak out for their values and you shouldn’t be going on a show and, and agreeing with the host if they’re saying things that are offensive or saying things that are contrary to what you believe.

President-elect Joe Biden’s got a history of being a hawkish Democrat, and his administration is shaping up to be a lot of familiar faces, probably not people that are terribly divergent from his foreign policy views. What are you hoping for from the Biden administration when it comes to national security and foreign policy?

Rep. Ro Khanna: I’m hoping we end the war in Yemen and I’ve been encouraged by preliminary conversations with people in Biden’s team. I think they understand the moral urgency of the situation. I believe [Biden’s nominee for secretary of state] Tony Blinken is going to make it a priority to stop our support for the Saudis and stop the bombing in Yemen. That has to be a priority.

I’m working with Sen. Bernie Sanders on a war powers resolution to make sure that Congress has to be consulted before we get into any other wars.

What do you think Biden should do about the remaining US troops in Afghanistan?

Rep. Ro Khanna: He should pull them out. There needs to be a peace negotiation, and then we ought to leave. That’s what’s in the interest of humanitarian considerations, that women and children are dying there every day as we speak. And that’s in the United States’ interest. We’re still spending $50 billion a year there. That would pay for almost-free college for every American. That would alternately pay for high-speed internet for every American. The costs have been staggering and the cost to human life is staggering. So we need to leave.

We should make it clear that if there’s ever emerging threats or terrorist threats to our homeland from [Afghanistan], we reserve the right to conduct and we reserve the right to go in again. But, there’s no point in having a permanent presence there. READ MORE