A Washington Post/ABC News poll shows 60 percent of voters say the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth the cost (WashPost), with Republicans evenly divided on whether the war has justified its price for the first time in five years. Of those polled, 54 percent want to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan even if the Afghan army is not adequately trained to carry on the fight. The survey was conducted in the days immediately before the deaths of sixteen civilians (NYT) allegedly at the hands of an U.S. serviceman.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum — who said the United States did not owe the Afghans an apology (Politico) after the Quran burning incident — said in this case an apology is warranted (ABC). “This was something that was deliberately done by an American soldier to innocent civilians,” he said. “It’s something that the proper authorities should apologize for, for not doing their job in making sure that something like this wouldn’t happen, something like this should not happen in our military period.”
Newt Gingrich, already on the record as considering Afghanistan an impossible situation, said after an apology, reconsideration of the United States’ role in there is needed. Ron Paul has also long been critical of the war in Afghanistan.
GOP candidate Mitt Romney was alone among the field of GOP contenders to stop short of saying it was time for troops to come home. “The actions of a deranged person are not going to shape American foreign policy,” Romney told Fox News. “That being said, we should on a regular basis reassess what’s happening in Afghanistan and any place for that matter where we have kinetic activity going on. And assess what’s the right course forward, are we making progress, are we not, what are the prospects for success in our mission and that’s something I would continue to do on a regular basis.”
The Taliban vowed revenge (USAToday) for the acts Monday but President Barack Obama said the incident will not lead to immediate withdrawal of troops (WFTV). “It does signal withdrawal in accordance with my plan with Afghans taking the lead, so we can get our troops home,” Obama said.
Conversely, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – in Afghanistan for a scheduled visit — said Monday that political reconciliation might not be coming quickly enough (Reuters) for Germany to pull out by 2014. “For that reason I cannot say we will manage this by 2013-2014. The will is there, we want to succeed and we will work on this,” she was quoted as saying.
For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on The Candidates and Afghanistan.
Suggested Other Reading:
Read CFR’s latest Analysis Brief on the tribulations the United States faces in Afghanistan.
The back-to-back incidents of Quran burnings and the killing of sixteen civilians could jeopardize talks with the Taliban, analysts tell the New York Times.
The Washington Post’s Carter Eskew says Obama shouldn’t be blamed for the latest atrocity, but the war itself is problematic and seems driven more by a political imperative of the Democrats to seem tough on defense rather than military strategy.
CFR’s Max Boot argues in the Wall Street Journal that even amid protests over the burning of Qurans, Afghans do not want a return of the Taliban — and they don’t hate the United States.
—Gayle S. Putrich, Contributing Editor