Romney: Is His Afghan Stance Really Out Of Step?

June 15th, 2011 at 4:01 pm | 8 Comments |

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Mitt Romney’s cautious remarks about US involvement in Afghanistan during Monday night’s New Hampshire GOP debate continue to draw fire from fellow Republicans.

However, the flak may stem more from from his current frontrunner status rather than his actual position on the American-NATO mission.

“It’s time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can — as soon as our generals think it’s okay,” Romney said in the debate. “One lesson we‘ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.”

This intimation of a US withdrawal sparked an immediate lambasting from more hawkish GOP elements and Romney’s camp has been scurrying to both qualify and clarify his remarks ever since the Granite State face-off between seven of the Republican presidential hopefuls.

“This is not a war of independence, this is a war to protect America’s national vital security interests,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday before going on to draw unflattering comparisons between Romney and the administration of former President Jimmy Carter.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty takes a tougher stance on Afghanistan than Romney. He has said, “We are committed to be there until [the] objectives are met” and he wouldn’t be opposed to sending more troops.

However, other serious GOP contenders have espoused similar views to Romney’s on Afghanistan but have not received the same bad press as the former Massachussetts Governor.

Former US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has referred to a drawdown of US forces in Afhanistan as “inevitable”, adding, “I would tell you that we have to evaluate very carefully our presence in Afghanistan, and my inclination would be to say that it is a heavy and very expensive presence we have on the ground. That at a point in time where we need to be looking at our asymmetrical threats, what we have in Afghanistan today is not consistent with how we ought to be responding.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann has also expressed a desire to pull the plug on the decade-long mission : “I’m tired of Afghanistan and Iraq, too,” she said. “I think we need to get out. I think Afghanistan is — on many, many levels, it doesn’t seem we’re gaining any ground. I want to reduce US exposure in Afghanistan. So, let’s get them out as quickly as we can.”

So why is Romney the only candidate getting heat for his views on a possible withdrawal?

Romney has consistently led the pack of GOP presidential contenders, with a June 11 Gallup poll putting him in the lead with 24 percent of Republican support. People expect him to fill the role he already inhabits in the polls: a Republican leader.

Romney’s doveish stance on Afghanistan has upset senior GOP figures — including the more hawkish Lindsey Graham — not because it’s substantively different than that of other candidates, but because he may actually be the party flag-bearer in 2012.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • PracticalGirl

    “Eat Your Own” is the standard of all GOP primaries in recent memory.

  • Carney

    I’m pro-Romney but I’m with Graham on this issue. Romney’s been giving me some heartburn lately, on this, on so-called DADT, and more.

  • Saladdin

    “It’s time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can — as soon as our generals think it’s okay,” So Mitt’s basic issue is that he and the President agree on this, but H of Reps disagrees.

  • valkayec

    If you look at the hawks in the Senate, you’ll see they are Vietnam vets or belong to that age group. The sting of Vietnam is still to close in their memories. For them, pulling out of Afghanistan now would be losing again. Emotionally and psychologically, they can’t handle walking away without a definite win as in WWII. They see walking away as a failure for US superiority and its military. As a result, they’d have American GIs in Afghanistan for another century or more if needed to “win.”

    Our original goal was never to defeat the Taliban; it was to beat Bin Laden and company. We’ve done that. We won what we set out to do. The hawks need to accept that and realize as the country did 40 years ago that you can’t beat a population that refuses to accept your occupation.

  • ottovbvs

    Standby for Romney’s latest clarifications (aka flip flops).

  • LFC

    Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty takes a tougher stance on Afghanistan than Romney. He has said, “We are committed to be there until [the] objectives are met” and he wouldn’t be opposed to sending more troops.

    It seems like Tim is suddenly a disciple of Glenn Beck. His Wing-Nutty-Meter ™ went off the charts with his tax cut proposal and he seems to be digging in to keep the needle pegged at “Take Away His Shoe Laces.”

  • nhthinker

    As with Iraq, the right time to surge would have waited until Afghani military were ready to take the lead in many of the fights.
    Our footprint needs to be reduced until Afghan police and military are taking seven times more casualties than NATO is.
    “Afghanistan” might have to shrink to “Kabul” to make that happen. Afghans would then need to lead the expansion out of Kabul to fight for their own country. If it is in the interest for the US to provide logistics and air support, fine for a couple years, but not much longer. Karzai needs to be weened and the surge was way too premature (or way too large) based on the competence of the Afghan army.

  • gmckee1985

    Face it, Americans, including your average Republican voter…is tired of war. The only people still pushing these continuous interventions are the big government neo conservatives, and the Pentagon.

    The country is moving away from it’s very hawkish post 9/11 stance. For good reason.