September 14, 2021

Van Hollen, Colleagues Request Reallocation of Defense Funding to Assist Afghans

Officially out of two-decade-long war, Senators call for unspent, leftover Afghanistan defense funds to go toward assistance for people of Afghanistan

Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to President Joseph R. Biden today requesting that in response to the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, the administration reallocate unspent funds previously appropriated for the Department of Defense’s Afghanistan war effort to meet the vast Afghan humanitarian and relocation needs. There is an estimated $2.9 billion in unspent funds appropriated for Fiscal Years (FY) 2020 and 2021 intended to support the Afghan National Army, National Police, Air Force and Special Security Forces, none of which continue to be operational. The current FY2022 request includes $3.3 billion for the now defunct Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces as part of a total request of $8.9 billion for Department of Defense direct war costs in Afghanistan. The transfer of funds away from the defunct Afghan armed forces would augment the Biden administration request of Congress to provide $6.4 billion in fiscal year 2022 to support evacuations, provide resources for new and future Afghan arrivals, and to provide for other humanitarian needs. 

The senators wrote, “With the legacies of Iraq and Afghanistan to guide us, it is very clear that we need to move away from a military dominated foreign policy to one built on a foundation of diplomacy, humanitarian and economic assistance, and cooperation with partners and allies. The challenge ahead is immense. Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, warned that a “humanitarian crisis is just beginning,” as up to 500,000 Afghans are likely to seek refuge outside of the country by the end of the year and half of the country’s population are in need of aid.  Just as Operation Allies Refuge was a visible display of U.S. commitment to evacuate Afghan allies out of harm’s way, we can and must show our commitment to the displaced and non-displaced Afghan people, alike.”

A copy of the letter can be found here.

In their letter, the lawmakers additionally ask President Biden to respond to questions surrounding the United States withdrawal and their intentions in ensuring humanitarian aid to our Afghan friends who supported the United States through the two-decade long war, including:

  • What funds were used to support the military’s evacuation and drawdown efforts that ended on August 31? How much did that effort cost?
  • What funds are being used to operate the transit centers currently used to hold Afghans going through the vetting and relocation processes run by the Department of Homeland Security? How much has this effort cost to date?
  • Will you commit to utilizing unobligated FY2021 and prior-year funds intended to support the Afghanistan war effort to instead support the Afghan people?
  • Will you work with Congress to revise the FY2022 requests for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State, and USAID to meet the changing needs of Afghans both inside Afghanistan and those who have fled the country?