The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan could become a major bone of contention among the GOP's 2012 hopefuls, judging by their differing responses to President Obama's speech outlining the US drawdown.
- Tim Pawlenty took the most hawkish position, calling the decision to bring all the surge forces home by the end of next summer a "grave mistake." "Look how he phrased the outcome of this war: He said we need to end the war 'responsibly,'" Pawlenty told Bill O'Reilly. "When America goes to war, America needs to win. We need to close out the war successfully."
- Mitt Romney also stressed the importance of staying the course as long as necessary, Politico reports. "We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we shouldn’t adhere to an arbitrary timetable on the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan," he said. "This decision should not be based on politics or economics"
- Jon Huntsman, meanwhile, said the pace of withdrawal should be faster, calling Obama's plan "a little cautious," reports the Hill. "Now it is time we move to a focused counter-terror effort which requires significantly fewer boots on the ground than the President discussed tonight," he said. "We need a safe but rapid withdrawal which encourages Afghans to assume responsibility."