Lawmakers: End Afghanistan War, Give Every GWOT Vet a $2,500 Bonus

Paratroopers with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division fire at insurgent forces during a firefight June 15, 2012, in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)
Paratroopers with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division fire at insurgent forces during a firefight June 15, 2012, in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Two U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation to pay veterans bonuses for serving in America's longest war.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, introduced the bipartisan American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act to "honor the volunteers who bravely serve our nation by providing bonuses to those who have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, and redirect the savings from ending nation-building in Afghanistan to America's needs at home," according to an announcement.

If passed, the AFGHAN Service Act would also permanently end America's involvement in Afghanistan and overturn the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, said the lawmakers, who serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"It is time to declare the victory we achieved long ago, bring them home, and put America's needs first," Paul said.

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"Soon, U.S. service members will begin deploying to Afghanistan to fight in a war that began before they were born," Udall said. "It is Congress that has failed to conduct the proper oversight of this nearly 18-year war. Now, we must step up, and listen to the American people -- who rightly question the wisdom of such endless wars."

The bill would order the government to pay any and all members of the military who have served in the Global War on Terrorism a $2,500 bonus within one year of the legislation passing, according to the AFGHAN Service Act.

"Since 2001, more than 3,002,635 men and women of the United States Armed Forces have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, with more than 1,400,000 of them deploying more than once," the bill states.

"This would be a one-time cost of approximately $7 billion and an immediate savings of over 83 percent when compared to the current yearly costs. The $51 billion a year can be redirected to domestic priorities."

The lawmakers argue that the numbers alone give reason to step away from the conflict.

"Over 2,300 military members have sacrificed their lives in the war, with another 20,000 wounded in action. In addition, the Afghanistan war has cost the United States $2 trillion, with the war currently costing over $51 billion a year," they said.

The end to the war would come as peace negotiations with the Taliban are ongoing, and al-Qaida's footprint in the country is shrinking, they added.

"The masterminds of the [Sept. 11] attack are no longer capable of carrying out such an attack from Afghanistan," they said. "Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, and [al-Qaida] has been all but eliminated from Afghanistan."

If enacted, the legislation gives Pentagon and State Department leaders, among others, 45 days to formulate a plan for an orderly withdrawal and turnover of facilities to the Afghan government.

The goal is to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan within one year of the bill's passage.

Paul and Udall's message comes as a coalition of Democratic lawmakers has endorsed a veteran activist organization's efforts to end the "forever wars" in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other global hot spots, and finally bring U.S. troops home.

Common Defense, a grassroots group comprised of veterans and military families that stood up after the 2016 election, has secured sponsorship from lawmakers and presidential hopefuls such as Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

Both initiatives mirror President Donald Trump's vision to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan and instead focus on counterterrorism and peace negotiations with a smaller footprint in the region.

In his State of the Union address last month, Trump highlighted the need to pull out of Afghanistan.

"Great nations do not fight endless wars," he said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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