The U.S. Senate -- and one particular Republican senator -- shoulder much of the blame for the Afghanistan debacle.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been one of the loudest critics of President Joe Biden's handling of the troop withdrawal, but his "death grip" on the confirmation process has left the U.S. without an ambassador to Afghanistan and blocked the administration's efforts to fully staff the State Department, according to The New Republic columnist Greg Greene.
"More than half a year has elapsed since President Biden took office, but across Foggy Bottom and around the world, State Department posts continue to sit empty — their roles filled by interim staffers," Greene wrote. "As longtime international affairs journalist Laura Rozen noted last week, the United States has no Senate-confirmed ambassador to Afghanistan; a Foreign Service officer called out of retirement has led the Kabul embassy as chargé d'affaires since January. The U.S. also has no confirmed assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia; acting officials have held that post since President Obama left office in 2017."
Those vacancies are the result of a Senate rule that permits a single senator to grind the confirmation process to a halt, and that's what Cruz has been doing because he's upset that Biden waived some sanctions related to the Russian-German energy pipeline project Nord Stream 2.
"It's a reckless way to run a country, one that leaves the executive branch short-staffed for handling a foreign crisis of the sort it now confronts," Greene wrote. "The fact that the Kabul evacuation effort recovered from early stumbles to hit a stride makes Senate dawdling no less culpable — Cruz's nonchalance notwithstanding — for its precarious start."
As senators from both sides of the aisle seek accountability for the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, the columnist argued, they should look at the Senate Republicans who violated their constitutional duty to allow Biden to fill out his administration to handle crises.
"If senators want to investigate elements of the Kabul withdrawal, that's of course their right," Greene wrote. "But an honest inquiry also has to confront senators' own culpability — through their maintenance and indulgence of a broken process for staffing the executive branch."