News / USA

    Afghanistan Emerging as Issue for US Republican Presidential Hopefuls

    Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney answers a question as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, left, and Rep. Ron Paul, listen during the first Republican presidential debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 13, 2011
    Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney answers a question as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, left, and Rep. Ron Paul, listen during the first Republican presidential debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 13, 2011

    In U.S. presidential politics the consensus among experts is that the domestic economy will be the central issue in next year’s campaign.  But the recent debate among Republican presidential contenders also focused on foreign policy, especially the future of the U.S. troop commitment in Afghanistan.  

    The recent Republican debate had a different tone in the discussion of the war in Afghanistan compared to debates in the past two U.S. presidential elections.

    Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination next year.  Romney says the long U.S. commitment to the war in Afghanistan should serve as a cautionary lesson to those who would support nation-building efforts in the future.

    “I want those troops to come home based upon not politics, not based upon economics, but instead based upon the conditions on the ground determined by the generals," he said. "But I also think we have learned that our troops should not go off and try to fight a war of independence for another nation.  Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan’s independence from the Taliban.”

    In the past two presidential elections, the Republican candidates, John McCain in 2008 and President George W. Bush in 2004, emphasized the need for the U.S. to prevail over the Taliban in Afghanistan no matter how long it took.

    But several of the Republican contenders running this year seem to reflect public opinion polls that show Republicans and Democrats alike growing weary of the nearly 10-year-old U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

    Only one Republican contender, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, advocates for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

    “I wouldn’t wait for my generals.  I’m the commander in chief.  I make the decisions," he said. "I tell the generals what to do and I would bring them home as quickly as possible and I would get them out of Iraq as well.  And I wouldn’t start a war in Libya and I would quit bombing Yemen and I’d quit bombing Pakistan.”

    The U.S. involvement with the NATO mission in Libya proved to be unpopular with several of the Republicans who took part in the recent debate, including Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

    “Our policy in Libya is substantially flawed," she said.  "And all we have to know is that the president deferred leadership in Libya to France. That is all we need to know.  The president was not leading when it came to Libya.”

    Most of the Republican contenders focus on economic issues since jobs and the tepid economic recovery remain the main concerns of U.S. voters.

    But some of the Republican White House contenders have made foreign policy a centerpiece of their campaign, including the former U.S. House speaker, Newt Gingrich.

    “Ten years after 9-11 our intelligence is so inadequate that we have no idea what percent of the Libyan rebels is in fact al-Qaida,” he said.

    Some Republicans are unhappy with the tone of the Republican presidential debate on the future of the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.

    Among them is South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who along with Senator John McCain is in a group of Republicans who insist that the U.S. and its allies must prevail in Afghanistan without regard to a timetable for troop withdrawals.

    “I was disappointed that no one articulated why it matters if we win or lose in Afghanistan," he said. "So I haven’t heard one Republican running for president articulating the strategic importance of winning or losing in Afghanistan.”

    Political analysts say the shift in emphasis in the Republican presidential debate on Afghanistan simply reflects the larger public weariness with the war there.

    “On Afghanistan, obviously there is growing dissatisfaction with the progress and I’m talking even among Republicans who have been supportive generally," said analyst Stuart Rothenberg, who appeared on VOA’s ‘Encounter’ program.  "The bottom line, though, is once again it is all about results.  What is going to happen on the ground between now and the next election in Afghanistan, in Iraq?”

    Another Republican contender with foreign policy experience will join the presidential race next week.  Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman will make his official announcement on Tuesday.  Until recently Huntsman served as President Obama’s ambassador to China and says he supports what he calls the desire of most Americans to begin phasing out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible.


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora