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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.