GOP Hawks Wants Romney to Take Tougher Line on Afghanistan: Extended Presence of U.S. Troops
President Barack Obama has long had a problem with his Democratic Party base because rather than immediately start pulling out of Afghanistan when he came into office he continued the American commitment to ending the conflict in what he argued was a more orderly way. Now, The Hill reports, some in the GOP are pressing for Republican nominee Mitt Romney to take a more hawkish position — a position that would advocate keeping the war going on longer:
Republican defense hawks are urging Mitt Romney to separate himself from President Obama on Afghanistan and back an extended presence for U.S. troops in the country.
The advice comes as the White House hits the halfway point in its timeline to withdraw all U.S. troops and after Romney faced criticism for not mentioning the Afghan conflict in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Hill on Wednesday the Romney camp needed to distance itself from the Obama administration’s goal of pulling all American forces from Afghanistan by 2014.
They should, instead, pursue a war plan focused on “what we leave behind” in the country, not just ending the war as soon as possible, according to Graham.
“It’s about getting it right,” the South Carolina Republican said. Getting it right, he added, almost certainly means keeping U.S. forces in country past the administration’s deadline.
“On the first day of a Romney administration,” the presumed president-elect needed to call a meeting of the top U.S. commanders in Afghanistan and chart a different strategic course for the country, Graham said.
“And if [they] need to change the timetable in Afghanistan, that is what we will do,” Graham said.
The Romney camp has been hammered in recent months by Democrats and by some within the GOP for not clearly defining the candidate’s position on Afghanistan.
On the campaign trail, Romney has publicly agreed with the 2014 deadline, but chastised the administration for giving insurgents a date certain for a U.S. pullout.
Obama campaign officials claim the 2014 deadline represents the president’s commitment to ending the Afghan war in the same way then-candidate Obama promised to end the Iraq war in 2008.
Four things to ponder:
1. All polls have shown Americans want the Iraq and Afghanistan wars ended. So would this position sell?
2. If Romney does come out with a more hawkish position on Afghanistan, would this symbolize the strong influence of hawks and/or neocons on him — and would this mean you could essentially track what they advocate and it would accurately predict Romney administration policy?
3. How would this position play with the party’s Tea Party wing?
4. This piece notes how one reason for doing this would be to separate Romney from Obama on this issue. Hasn’t this been the story about how Republicans have undercut the advantages they’ve had in this economy? Haven’t too many in the party thought that just being the “anti-Obama” — even taking positions Republicans once advocated that oppose these positions if Obama advocates a position Republicans once held — is enough?
An April poll found GOPErs are increasingly less smitten with the war in Afghanistan:
A majority of Republicans say for the first time that the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that comes as the continuing U.S. presence in that country is emerging as a key point of contention in the presidential race.
The poll findings are likely to present a challenge for Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, who has said that the goal in Afghanistan should be to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield.
President Obama stepped back from that goal during his 2009 strategy review and has set the end of 2014 as the departure date for all U.S. combat forces.
Overall, the Post-ABC News poll reflects a country bone-weary of war after more than a decade of fighting in Afghanistan and, until late last year, an almost nine-year engagement in Iraq.
Public support for the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan has fallen to an all-time low, with only 30 percent of respondents saying it has been worth fighting.
Since the 2001 invasion, almost 2,000 U.S. troops have been killed and more than 15,000 have been wounded in Afghanistan. According to the poll, two-thirds of Americans think the war has not been worth fighting, equaling the most negative public assessments of the U.S. war effort in Iraq.
Although foreign policy has been a peripheral issue in the presidential campaign, the poll’s findings highlight the difficulty Obama and Romney face in explaining U.S. policy to an increasingly war-weary electorate.
If Romney comes out suggesting he’s going to toss the administration’s timetable would it be one more example of today’s Republican Party in effect saying damn the opinion polls full speed ahead because this fits in with our ideology?
PREDICTION: If it’s announced that Romney’s making a major foreign policy speech, it will include a call for an extended American presence in Afghanistan and the tossing of the administration’s pull-out timetable.