Emmie Phillips


On August 15, 2021, the Taliban took control of Kabul, ending their weeks-long takeover of Afghanistan. Distraught by the quick offensive, United States forces and their allies quickly secured the Kabul airport and were forced to accelerate their planned withdrawal from the country in a makeshift manner. Afghan civilians, particularly those who had supported the efforts of U.S. forces, desperately attempted to get out of the country. The chaotic and disorganized withdrawal was not well received, both in the United States and internationally.

Prior to the Taliban takeover, President Joe Biden had ordered the U.S. withdrawal, with an expected end date of September 11, 2021. Congress had been left out of the withdrawal decision-making process.

Since the mid-twentieth century, and particularly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, congressional war- and treaty-making powers have dwindled substantially. This is due not only to executive expansion over the course of many wars, but also due to Congress’s willingness to abdicate its power.

The chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan uncovered many issues in the executive branch’s extensive war and treaty powers. It highlighted that the president can now launch offensives and define the scope of armed conflict without any guidance from Congress, in direct defiance of the Constitution.

In the past century, the United States has involved itself in many conflicts around the world. Increasingly, the decisions to start and stop these conflicts have been concentrated in the hands of the president alone. This has often led to devastating effects and is contrary to checks and balances under the Constitution. Congress should reassert its constitutional war and treaty powers and eliminate the unconstitutional, unilateral decisionmaking of the executive branch that has increasingly led to situations like the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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