The US government is on a roll with its various war on terror related announcements, policy changes and platitudes. Yesterday President Obama was found in Afghanistan, quietly slipping into Bagram Air Base (and had no plan to travel to Kabul to meet Hamid Karzai). US and NATO will withdraw most of their forces from Afghanistan and the US still has to reach a security agreement to keep limited forces in Afghanistan. About 2,181 US soldiers have died during the 13 year Afghan war and thousands more wounded. Currently there are about 32,800 US troops in Afghanistan, down from 100,000 in 2010.

The final American troops withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011, after the US and Iraq failed to reach a security agreement to keep a small residual force in the country. The hope for the US is that Afghanistan wont go the same way. US officials say they are trying to avoid a similar scenario in Afghanistan. While combat forces are due to depart at the end of this year, Obama administration officials have pressed to keep some troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to continue training the Afghan security forces and for counterterrorism operations and they will probably get their way.

With the troop withdrawal and Obamas announcement of the holding of drone strikes in Pakistan, it might seem that the War on Terror is contracting, but the US Congress isn’t ready to end it yet. In 2011 an amendment was proposed to pass a new Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) to reaffirm the war against al Qaeda and restrict the President’s hand on issues like the closing of Guantanamo prison. An amendment to a defense bill on the AUMF failed 191-231 last week in the Republican-controlled House. This law has been used as a legal basis for everything, from indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay to drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. The 2001 AUMF was for the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, but today it is used for counterterrorism operations against groups that didn’t even exist at the time. Additionally, Congress isn’t ready to close Guantanamo Bay prison either. The House voted down amendments to shut down the facility and removed restrictions on transfers of detainees into US prisons. The White House might veto the defense bill over the transfer restrictions, but there is not much precedent for this.