Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is struggling to find his footing on the question of the war in Afghanistan, on one hand, criticizing President Barack Obama’s relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (WSJ) as not close enough and on the other hand, saying he would want to hear from military leaders because he does not have enough information (HuffPo) currently on the war in Afghanistan to “take a stand” on troop withdrawal.
After the death of sixteen Afghan civilians allegedly at the hands of an U.S. soldier and the Taliban’s suspension of talks with the United States, Karzai initially called for U.S. troops to be confined to their bases (NYT) and for an earlier withdrawal plan to be considered, only to soften days later (WSJ). Afghan officials now say moving coalition forces out of Afghan villages will be the subject of negotiations, which could take months.
Rick Santorum said over the weekend that the United States should either commit to winning (Boston Globe) the war in Afghanistan or “get out.” Santorum said, on winning (ABC), that if elected, he would “work with the Afghan government to make sure that we commit to them to be successful — whatever that means.”
Meanwhile, Obama’s commitment to the current NATO plan — which calls for a handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces in 2014 — has become a hot issue (USAToday) with voters. A recent poll shows 60 percent of voters surveyed said they have had enough of the ten-years-long war.
For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on the candidates and Afghanistan.
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The killing of Afghan civilians and the Taliban’s suspension of peace talks have complicated the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. CFR’s Stephen Biddle discusses U.S. choices in this interview.
–Contributing Editor Gayle S. Putrich