Taliban attacks in eastern Afghanistan; organizations call for defense budget cut

Afghanistan patrol. Source U.S. Army. 

Taliban attacks in eastern Afghanistan, ending the ceasefire

Congress uses the U.S. withdrawal to cut the defense budget

By Rachel Brooks

May 22, 2021 

Taliban attacks in eastern Afghanistan brought an end to a short-lived local ceasefire in eastern Afghanistan, Reuters reports. The ceasefire was brokered by local elders and was meant to last for one month. 

As the Taliban continues its military attacks across Afghanistan, the state prepares for the ultimate withdraw of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a theater the United States has been involved in for 20 years, following the Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center, New York, New York, on September 11, 2001. 

The United States Congress continues to debate the issues of the Afghanistan troop withdrawal, a process initially mediated under the Trump administration. On Saturday, ABC broadcast statements by Senator Josh Hawley (R) of Missouri regarding the Biden administration’s processes on this withdrawal. 

Hawley weighs in on statements by many Republicans that a withdrawal of U.S. troops now would be a strategic mistake, in a region where international security begins to erode. Afghanistan is an immediate neighbor of Pakistan and is located within the expanse of the former Soviet Union. Regional security threats including the growing foreign intervention of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as aggression from Russia and China, and international land disputes among the former member states of the Soviet Union. Hawley had “sharp questions” for the process, he noted during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Despite strong criticism, the four-star U.S. general in command of the NATO post states that the process for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is underway, and going along smoothly. 

Joining the list of critics of the withdrawal is former U.S. President George W. Bush, who was the incumbent president during the initial stages of the War on Terror when the U.S. entered the Afghan conflict theater. The Hill reported Thursday that Bush had expressed “deep concern” regarding the U.S. troop withdrawal. Bush expressed concerns that withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan will create a “vacuum” that will allow Islamist insurgencies to gain new strength in the region. In addition to U.S. troops, troops from NATO countries and U.S. contractors will likewise withdraw from Afghanistan. 

Even with concern voiced by former and present U.S. politicians, active groups encourage the United States government to take advantage of the Afghanistan withdrawal and take measures to cut defense spending. The Hill reported on Friday that 40 advocacy groups across “the political spectrum” have pushed lawmakers to take advantage of the Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal process and “cut the defense budget.” A letter was published by Citizen.org and sent to Congress on May 21. The organizations include a majority of left-leaning institutions as well as religious organizations. 

“The undersigned 40 organizations believe that the Biden administration’s recently announced troop withdrawal from Afghanistan offers an opportunity to re-examine the nation’s extremely large commitments to the Pentagon budget. We are dismayed that the administration’s initial budget blueprint to Congress did not reflect a corresponding reduction in war funds, and instead included a gargantuan request of $753 billion for the Pentagon and affiliated spending,” the organizations wrote. 

“We urge the congressional defense appropriations subcommittees to appropriate a lower topline than initially requested by the Biden administration to, at a minimum, reflect cost savings from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.”

The listed organizations noted that funds would be “freed up” by the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. 

“Estimates indicate that at least $20 billion and perhaps as much as $50 billion will be freed up by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Yet the administration requested a 1.7 percent increase from the previous fiscal year, adding $13 billion in discretionary spending to an already sky-high figure. If the costs of the troop withdrawal were not factored into this request, the budget increase will, in reality, be even greater, given troops are required to withdraw before the start of the next fiscal year,” the organizations wrote. 

The organizations who signed the letter included lobby groups promoting the demilitarization of the United States in regions where Islamism is promoted, such as CODEPINK. The undersigned named are as follows: American Friends Service Committee, Center for International Policy, Coalition on Human Needs, CODEPINK, Common Defense, Concerned Veterans for America, Daily Kos, DC Peace Team, Demand Progress, Detention Watch Network, Foreign Policy for America, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends of the Earth, Just Foreign Policy, Greenpeace US, Indivisible, MADRE, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, MoveOn, National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, National Taxpayers Union, Our Revolution, Pax Christi USA, Peace Action, Peace Direct, PlusPeace, Progress America, Project On Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, RootsAction.org ,Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Justice Team, Social Security Works, Taxpayers for Common Sense, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society,Win Without War, Women’s Actions for New Directions, World BEYOND War, and Veterans for Peace.