While most of her fellow Democrats watched the unfolding Afghanistan fiasco in silence, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has emerged as one of the few members of her party willing to publicly criticize President Joe Biden’s flailing foreign policy.
“This has been the worst week of the worst month of the Biden presidency,” UNH political science professor Dante Scala told NHJournal. “And the month is only half over.”
Shaheen is known for supporting a more proactive foreign policy than the progressives in her party, reaching across the aisle, for example, on legislation to block Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline — another foreign policy break with the Biden White House.
She’s been openly critical of Biden’s plan for a swift abandonment of Afghanistan since he announced the policy in April. Biden timed the total withdrawal to coincide with the 20th anniversary of 9/11 terror attack.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Taliban had operational control of the country, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country, and new intelligence reports revealed Al Qaeda is far larger and more active than the Biden administration has admitted.
“The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army,” Biden said last month. “There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”
Shaheen didn’t agree, having warned of “dire consequences from a swift withdrawal” months ago.
“I’m very disappointed in the President’s decision to set a September deadline to walk away from Afghanistan. Although this decision was made in coordination with our allies, the U.S. has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan to leave without verifiable assurances of a secure future,” Shaheen said at the time.
During an April meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where she serves, Shaheen predicted Afghan women would once again be subjected to violence and subjugation under Taliban rule.
She repeated those concerns late last week as the swift consequences of the Biden withdrawal plan became apparent.
“We need to think about everything we can do that might have some influence,” she told Bloomberg. “Maybe it doesn’t all work, but we’ve got to keep at it. Because we can’t allow wholesale massacres of any woman who’s in the workplace in Afghanistan, or any woman who has an education, or allow them to kick all of the girls out of school and go back to, really, the days of cave people in the way they treat women and girls.”
Shaheen has been mentioned in multiple media reports as a rare example of a prominent elected Democrat willing to criticize Biden’s policy. That’s certainly the case in New Hampshire.
Sen. Maggie Hassan sits on the Homeland Security Committee, which was formed in direct response to the 9/11 terror attack plotted in Afghanistan with the protection of the Taliban. And yet, even as President Ghani fled the country, she hadn’t made a single public comment or posted a sentence about the chaos.
Only after NHGOP Chairman Steve Stepanek called her out publicly on Sunday did Hassan end her weeklong silence.
“In the last 48 hours, we have seen chaos descend as the Taliban enters Kabul. The Afghan government is collapsing and I have read with horror the reports of the execution of our Afghan allies and partners and I pray for all the Afghan people – especially the young women and girls – whose lives are in danger,” Hassan said.
But rather than criticizing Biden, she blamed the “situation in Afghanistan” on “failures by multiple administrations,” before adding:
“I have long said that any withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan must be based on facts on the ground, not arbitrary deadlines. Instead, we have seen a precipitous withdrawal with no real plan in place to ensure the peace and stability of Afghanistan and its people.”
Rep. Chris Pappas sits on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, caring for those who served in the Afghanistan invasion and the 20-year war on Islamists there, but no mention from him, either until late Sunday night.
Not surprisingly, Stepanek is critical of Hassan’s performance.
“On the Homeland Security Committee, she has an important and critical role to advise the POTUS and his team,” Stepanek said “It’s also her role to advise the people of New Hampshire about what’s going on. And if she sees a policy that’s not right, it’s not her job to be a Democrat, it’s her job to call it out and say ‘This is not right.’
“You’re not in Senate to support a particular party or politician if they’re not protecting America,” Stepanek added.
Hassan declined to respond to requests for comment.