Following a shooting rampage by a United States Army sergeant who allegedly killed at least 16 civilians in southern Afghanistan, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are saying that the United States should reassess its role in the country.
"I think that we’re risking the lives of young men and women in a mission that may frankly not be doable," said Gingrich on "Fox News Sunday." "I think it's very likely that we have lost, tragically lost, the lives and suffered injuries to a considerable number of young Americans on a mission that we’re going to discover is not doable."
Santorum said the recent news was a call to at least reassess the situation. "Anytime you have such a shocking development, I think it's important to take a look and see what the situation is and whether it's possible to continue on," he said on NBC’s "Today" on Monday. "Given all of these additional problems, we have to either make the decision to make a full commitment, which this president has not done, or we have to decide to get out and probably get out sooner given the president's decision to get out in 2014."
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has long been critical of the war in Afghanistan. Mitt Romney's official position is that "withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan under a Romney administration will be based on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders."
Though conducted before the shooting took place, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed widespread skepticism about the war. While respondents were about evenly split on the president's handling of the war, respondents were roundly critical of the war. By a 60-35 margin, respondents said the war was "not worth fighting," with 44 percent strongly against it. When asked whether the U.S. should keep its forces in Afghanistan until the Afghan Army is self-sufficient, respondents disagreed by a 54-43 margin. Republicans were split over whether the war was worth fighting.
President Obama has scheduled a 2014 date to remove combat troops and to hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces. The Pentagon expects U.S. and NATO troops to stay after that to train Afghan forces.
The shootings on Sunday left many Afghans furious and Americans scrambling to contain the damage. The New York Times reported that one military official was worried that the attacks played into the Taliban's narrative about how the U.S. treats Afghans. Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta both called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to offer condolences. In a statement, Obama said, "This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan."
The incident Sunday follows violent protests that have left over 30 people dead, including two U.S. military officials, over the burning of Qurans at Bagram Air Base. Many fear that the massacre of Afghan civilians could trigger similar protests.
UPDATE: Mitt Romney responded to the incident in a statement. "Governor Romney believes the killings are reprehensible and shares the anguish of the victims’ families. These acts by one soldier are not representative of the courageous and honorable conduct of our armed forces. That soldier should be held to account after a full and rapid investigation and we must be clear that America stands with the Afghan people, not against them," said Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul.