WASHINGTON -- More than a decade into the war in Afghanistan, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney does not have enough information to "take a stand" on whether troops should remain or continue to withdraw on the timetable set by President Obama.
"Before I take a stand, I want to get input [from military leaders] that are there," Romney said on "Fox News Sunday." "General [John] Allen is coming to Washington and testifying about what the conditions are," he noted, adding that some conclusions can already be drawn.
"I think it is plain to see conditions are not going very well," Romney said. "And I lay part of the blame on that on the lack of leadership on our president."
The former Massachusetts governor called the ongoing U.S. departure from Afghanistan a "failed withdrawal."
Said Romney: "He likewise failed in the way we left Iraq, and this is a president who simply does not have experience in tough situations, no negotiating or leadership experience. And it is showing with the result that one might have expected with the lack of leadership."
Fox News host Bret Baier asked Romney what he would do differently.
"First of all, I would exercise leadership," Romney offered, suggesting he would talk to President Hamid Karzei every day.
Romney also criticized the U.S. decision to withdraw its forces, saying that it had led Karzai to begin distancing himself from the United States. "The president put out a specific timetable for withdrawal and end of combat operations.That is leading Mr. Karzai to take action that is self preservation in nature."
By 2010, the war in Afghanistan had become, by some measures, the longest in American history.
So does this mean Romney supports an open-ended occupation? Pressed by Baier, Romney said that perhaps the U.S. troops should be exiting Afghanistan even faster.
"Well, the timing of withdrawal is going to be dependent upon what you hear from the conditions on the ground," Romney said, citing "the timetable, the guidelines that continue to be in effect unless there are changes in conditions that suggest a faster withdrawal."
Romney finished, however, by taking a stand -- if not a very controversial one. "We are not staying there forever," he concluded.
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