The United States has had thousands of troops in Afghanistan without a formal declaration of war. President Trump has recently ordered a large number of them out of that country, presumably to return home. The Washington Post among others has critiqued the action in supposed "news" stories and characterized this action as a pull-out from Syria. Trump's action has been criticized by political opponents domestically and by some US allies. But under the constitution only the US Congress can declare war.
Instead of a declaration of war, joint resolution of congress passed over seventeen years ago, known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), Public Law 107-40. is raised. Previous US administrations (including those of Trump's opponents and critics) have used the AUMF to justify a US military presence in over a dozen countries for over a seventeen years.
The AUMF was passed shortly after the 9/11 attacks, without clear knowledge of the forces behind those attacks. As reported by Business Insider congress was considering withdrawing the AUMF in 2017, which certainly would have clarified the present situation.
Many wonder if AUMF is sufficient to justify continued risk to US military forces and involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan and Syria. It seems that congress, rather than criticizing actions of the commander-in-chief to withdraw forces could either withdraw the AUMF or pass a declaration of war to encourage the president to take further action in Afghanistan.
Who would congress logically declare war against, or alternatively why haven't they withdrawn the AUMF? Have any recent recorded votes in congress been held?
Criticism of the AUMF
According to wikipedia, an initial draft of the AUMF granted the president authorization to *"to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States."* It states that this language was was removed before passage so as not to grant "a blank check to go anywhere, anytime, against anyone the Bush administration or any subsequent administration deemed capable of carrying out an attack" and the language was removed. Wikipedia cites a copyrighted LexisNexis article.
Could congress declare war against the Taliban?
I believe the question is related to the Law of War and jus ad bellum which deals with acceptable justifications for war.
Historically, a declaration of war doesn't necessarily call for immediate hostilities. For example Manuel Noriega of Panama declared war on the United States. While the American administration questioned his authority to invoke the will of the people of panama, it lead to Operation Just Cause to remove Noriega with a minimum of harm to the people of Panama. The watershed moment in this seems to have been captured in Global Media Perspectives on the Crisis in Panama in quoting from a speech to the nation made by George H. W. Bush which explained (20 December 1989), saying in part:
"Last Friday, Noriega declared his military dictatorship to be in a state of war with the United States and publicly threatened the lives of Americans in Panama. The very next day, forces under his command shot and killed an unarmed American serviceman; wounded another; arrested and brutally beat a third American serviceman; and then brutally interrogated his wife, threatening her with sexual abuse. That was enough."
Another example, a number of countries in the middle east have had (for a long period of time) a declared war against Israel, while at the same time questioning Israel's right to exist and yet did not attack constantly. If those Muslim majority countries can do it to try to get what they want, it only seems fair that the U.S. congress might do so.
Duties of congress vs. political correctness
It seems to me that individual members of congress have a duty to declare themselves in or out on the topic of use of force in Afghanistan. The President of course as commander-in-chief can choose how to prosecute a war.
Is it a matter of political correctness that the members of congress don't want to express themselves, weighing the risks of further conflict inherent in either approach? In other words, is the Anything But Trump crowd trying to snipe at Trump's action to withdraw troops without providing a clear indication they want further use of military force?
To further illustrate, consider the major media headline Taliban greets Pentagon's withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan with cries of victory. The article is so selective, and ignores the fact US allies in the area (like Pakistan) have praised the withdrawal. NBC's story is not news, it's biased opinion; it cites only a "senior Taliban commander". Put a name to him and tell me where he is so I can consider the source. Compare NBC with the less biased story story from French agency AFP: Pakistan says US troop withdrawal 'step forward' in Afghan peace effort It seems like I've got to go outside the country to avoid the media's bias.
I'm simply suggesting that if Congress wants the Taliban defeated (as opposed to ISIS, Syria, or Afghanistan), it needs to say so in the strongest language it can, which would be a formal declaration of war. Alternatively, if congress doesn't want American lives put at risk to defeat the Taliban, congress should join Pakistan in recognizing the troop withdrawal is a step forward toward peace, and withdraw the AUMF.
The one thing I can't abide is putting Americans in harm's way outside the US with one hand tied behind their back. Militaries are organized to fight wars, not police other countries.