Eye On Boise

Risch: Afghanistan puzzle is a 'Rubik's cube on steroids'

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch described the situation in Afghanistan as "a Rubik's cube on steroids" this morning while participating in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in which committee members questioned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen about the Obama Administration's new Afghanistan strategy. "As polarized as this country is ... this is an issue that we all really, really need to pull together on," Risch said. "There are no good choices. There are only choices to be made that are in the best interest of the American people."

Risch asked whether the officials had considered speeding up the troop withdrawal from Iraq beyond the schedule the president already has announced; they said no. "I'd encourage that we keep an eye on that," Risch said. He also questioned whether the July 2011 date the administration has set for beginning to pull troops back out of Afghanistan, after a 2010 buildup of 30,000 additional troops, is a "hard date" rather than a target. Gates responded that it's a "firm date that the president has established" for beginning troop withdrawals, but said, "The pace of that withdrawal ... will be conditions-based."

Mullen noted, "This date has also been described as arbitrary - it's not arbitrary at all." The date marks the third summer that Marines will be in the Helmand province, he said. At that point, "We will have a clear indication which way this is going."




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