Recently I received an email from Senator Jim Risch in which he lambasted President Biden for overseeing a “disastrous exit from Afghanistan.”
He complained, “The tragedy that is unfolding did not have to happen this way. This is a result of naivety and a lack of planning. I asked the Administration for their plans for months and they offered nothing. The American people and our allies deserve better."
Senator, with all due respect, I believe your Idaho constituents deserve better.
Recall that Risch supported President George W. Bush when Bush got the U.S. into an unwinnable war 20 years ago. Consider, too, that Risch’s vague and partisan broadside is quite a contrast to his response to former president Trump when Trump abandoned Syria, evacuated none of our Kurdish allies, and handed over our military bases to Russia.
In an interview reported in the Idaho Press on October 10, 2019, Risch said, “You keep wanting me to say, ‘I support, or I oppose.’ He is the commander in chief,” Risch said. “I support that America has a commander in chief, and he has to make decisions on the battlefield, and that’s how these decisions should be made, is on the battlefield.”
He added, “Once the commander in chief makes a decision, whatever that decision is, America needs to get behind the commander in chief or we got a huge problem.”
It seems Senator Risch has one rule for Republican presidents and another for Democratic presidents.
We did not hear Senator Risch complain about former President Trump’s deal with the Taliban which resulted in the release of 5,000 of the most dangerous Taliban from Pakistani prison where they had been incarcerated. Nor do we have any evidence that Risch asked for Trump’s plans to make good on his commitment that the U.S. would be out of Afghanistan by May 21, 2021.
Likewise, we don’t recall Senator Risch bellyaching when Trump himself drew down the number of troops, nor did Risch express concern about Trump reaching this deal with the Taliban without including the Afghan government in negotiations. In fact, Risch was silent even when Trump talked of inviting the Taliban to Camp David.
Was the Senator aware that the Trump Administration had slowed down the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) review process resulting in the Biden Administration inheriting a significant backlog of more than 17,000 SIV applicants?
Did he have a crystal ball allowing him to foresee that, after the U.S. had committed billions of dollars in training and equipping Afghan troops these past twenty years, the Afghan forces would simply crumple and disband at the Taliban’s advance? Did he expect the leaders of the Afghan government to flee the country and abandon their countrymen as the Taliban approached Kabul? If so, why didn’t he speak up?
Yes, it is important to understand how the initial stage of the exit could have been better executed, but the fact remains that the U.S. has successfully evacuated more than 110,000 people from Afghanistan in two weeks’ time. We have prioritized American citizens and Afghanis who helped our personnel. Our government and our military are doing yeoman’s work.
It seems that “different strokes for different folks,” is the name of the game for Senator Risch. Instead of carping about President Biden while the U.S. is in the middle of a dangerous overseas mission, perhaps Risch should consider his own words: “Once the commander in chief makes a decision, whatever that decision is, America needs to get behind the commander in chief or we got a huge problem.”