All four members of Idaho's congressional delegation issued statements tonight in response to President Obama's announcement that he'll send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Also, the Idaho Statesman's Washington, D.C. reporter, Erika Bolstad, reported tonight that the troop buildup drew "grudging respect" from the Idaho delegation; you can read her full story here. Below are the full statements from Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Reps. Walt Minnick and Mike Simpson.
Sen. Mike Crapo: “The basis of any military decision should be our national security, and we should not send our military men and women into armed conflict unless national security justifies it. President Bush and now President Obama have said that they believe that this test is met in Afghanistan. Once this decision is made, our military must have rules of engagement that match the conditions on the ground, prioritize the safety of our men and women in uniform, and enable them to effectively accomplish their mission. Strategic guidance is best provided by our commanders, and we should support their lead. They are in the best position to dictate the length of stay of our troops. By heeding the advice of our commanders, the military can finish the mission as quickly as possible and avoid prolonged occupations in Afghanistan or Iraq.”
Rep. Walt Minnick: “I commend the president for making the wise choice of listening to his generals on the ground. As he said tonight, our national security is closely tied to our ability to bring stability and security to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The strategy set forth tonight is one that has helped improve the situation in Iraq. Increasing the number of troops will give us more manpower and resources to work with local tribes and bring them to our side in the fight against Al Qaeda. These local tribes must be our allies in the fight against terrorism, and can help us weaken Al Qaeda’s ability to spread that terrorism abroad. Like the president, I am concerned about the Afghan central government, which has shown little interest in cleaning up its own corruption. I believe that we must fight the corruption, but I know from my own time in Afghanistan as a young man that the politics of the region are tricky. Afghanistan has never had a strong central government, and I believe that making it so will be exceedingly difficult. That is why the focus of this effort must be local stability, something our military has learned to do very well. In addition to increased military power, there are steps we can take to improve the country and the lives of its residents. As the president suggested tonight and as I suggested in my letter to him, economic programs that offer meaningful incentives to farmers and landowners will be a key element to winning the trust of the Afghan people. Idahoans have a wide range of opinions on how best to achieve lasting peace. As Americans, it is crucial to rally behind our Commander in Chief and the brave men and women in harm’s way. And we owe it to each other to seek a renewed commitment to community and to the shared patriotism we all had after the attacks of 9/11.”
Sen. Jim Risch: “Sending additional troops to Afghanistan is, unfortunately, necessary at this time. We have the best fighting men and women in the world who are risking their lives and at the very least, we owe them the resources their commanders request to accomplish their mission—in this case fighting al Qaeda overseas instead of at home. Having said that, my committee work in the Senate, my meetings with many people connected to the issue and my visit to Afghanistan earlier this year have convinced me we need to focus on clear, definable objectives there, not just troop numbers. To date we have failed to do so. The President has now given an outline of his plan. I want to review in further detail the administration’s plans for objectives and the methods for completing those objectives. I will be watching very closely as the process unfolds to see if this strategy is achieving the desired objectives and ultimately rooting out al Qaeda and bringing our troops home.”
Rep. Mike Simpson: “First and foremost, we must support our troops. I am grateful that President Obama has finally made a decision about the Afghanistan troop surge. It appears remarkably similar to former President Bush’s decision to implement the troop surge in Iraq; a strategy that has ultimately brought us closer to victory and allowing our troops to return home. I remain concerned that President Obama has established an artificial timeline for Afghanistan which may embolden our enemies, thus making victory in Afghanistan more difficult.”