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Risch: One Year After Fall of Kabul, We Have No Answers

BOISE, Idaho – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released the following statement ahead of the one-year anniversary of the fall of Kabul on August 15 and the United States’ hazardous withdrawal from Afghanistan:

“In the one year since Kabul fell to the Taliban and the United States haphazardly withdrew from Afghanistan, we still don’t have full answers as to how the Biden Administration failed to see it coming and did not have an effective plan in place to evacuate American citizens and Afghan partners,” said Risch. “Tens of thousands of SIVs remain stranded in Afghanistan, the human rights of women and girls have all but disappeared, al-Qaeda has clearly returned to Afghanistan, terrorism concerns are on the rise, and we lack sufficient safeguards to ensure U.S. assistance doesn’t end up in the hands of the Taliban. Further, the Taliban’s harboring of Ayman al-Zawahri highlights how it cannot be trusted to hold up any of the commitments it made in the Doha Agreement.”

“In order to prevent a similar catastrophe from happening again, it’s imperative the Biden Administration seriously investigates what went wrong and learns from those mistakes,” Risch continued. “The fact that it’s been a year and we have yet to see any comprehensive reports or policy corrections is not only concerning, but unacceptable. Looking forward, the administration should be focused on developing a comprehensive counterterrorism plan, safeguarding human rights, and creating guardrails on U.S. assistance to prevent direct benefit to the Taliban. I expect the administration to provide Congress with briefings and appropriate answers in the coming weeks.”

One year since the fall of Kabul:

Counterterrorism concerns continue to grow:

  • The Taliban is unwilling and unable to meet its counterterror commitments, and continues to provide sanctuary for al-Qaeda leadership and attack plotters.
  • Despite the strike that removed Ayman al-Zawahri from the battlefield, the administration’s over-the-horizon counterterrorism strategy is hampered by a lack of resources and vast distances – Afghanistan has once again become a dangerous blind spot.
  • Terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay have been released back to Afghanistan, giving them the opportunity to return to the battlefield.

Human rights have plummeted in Afghanistan:

We continue to send financial aid to Afghanistan without sufficient guardrails to prevent diversions to terrorism:

  • Current assistance efforts have been plagued by diversions to the Taliban.
  • We need to strike the appropriate balance between helping ordinary Afghans and preventing benefit to the Taliban.
  • Administration efforts to unfreeze Afghan central bank funds should be tied to Taliban improvements in human rights, counterterrorism, and drug trafficking – otherwise, not a cent should be released.

70,000+ Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) are still awaiting processing:

  • There are still Americans, U.S. Legal Permanent Residents, and at-risk Afghans left behind in Afghanistan.
  • While some streamlining has taken place, the backlog is still over 70,000 principal SIV applicants.

American citizen Mark Frerichs is being held hostage:

  • American veteran Mark Frerichs is still not home despite the Biden Administration’s many capitulations to the Taliban. Where is Mark, and when will he come home?

American credibility with allies and partners has still not recovered:

  • The United States is no longer viewed as a reliable ally.
  • The Biden Administration has not taken action to regain the trust of our allies and partners.

The administration has still not provided an analysis of what went wrong:

  • The Biden Administration refuses to accept responsibility for the bungled evacuation, subsequent lack of planning, and any after action reviews. We do not have answers on what happened, and we might not for some time.
  • It is clear the administration has not learned lessons from this catastrophe.

In September 2021, Risch introduced the Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act, comprehensive legislation to address the outstanding issues related to the administration’s rushed and disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In February 2022, Risch published a report entitled “Left Behind: A Brief Assessment of the Biden Administration’s Strategic Failures during the Afghanistan Evacuation,” to give an overview of what went wrong in the planning and execution of the Biden Administration’s hazardous withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Also in February 2022, Risch and Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced a bill to require the U.S. State Department to release a public, unclassified version of the July 13, 2021, internal dissent channel cable that reportedly warned of the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s ability to capture Kabul.