Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, a top surrogate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, criticized President Barack Obama on Wednesday for the 10-year strategic partnership the United States just signed with Afghanistan.
Pawlenty said that while the Romney supported the president's decision to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, he disagreed with the decision to set a public timetable for withdrawal:
In terms of this agreement that was signed, Gov. Romney feels it's important to define the mission ahead in terms of strategic outcomes, not in terms of days or months on the calendar. And those strategic outcomes include making sure al Qaeda is defeated, making sure the insurgencies -- including, by the way, groups like the Taliban -- are incapable of reforming in a way that threatens Afghan security or the situation next door in Pakistan, and making sure that the Afghan security forces and police forces haves enough capacity to be able to make sure that the country is at least reasonably stable. [...]
Gov. Romney said 2014 may be an appropriate timetable, but let's not announce it ahead of time so those who don't have America's interests at heart can plan around it. Don't give them the blueprint in public, with timelines attached to it. That's what President Obama has done. Gov. Romney would have taken a different approach and planned and executed those plans in private.
Senior administration officials told the Washington Post, however, that the strategic partnership was actually meant to ensure the opposite. U.S. trainers and Special Operations troops that remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 will live on bases, sending "a signal to the Taliban that they cannot 'wait out' the international presence, which is supporting a fragile Afghan government."
Karzai sought a commitment from Obama that the U.S. would continue to support Afghanistan after 2014, and in the new agreement, Obama will ask Congress for money to aid the country through 2024. The president also emphasized that the United States would be seeking permanent U.S. bases in the country.
Romney was one of the most hawkish GOP presidential candidates on Afghanistan. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is a vocal anti-war politician, and even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum were publicly stating that a withdrawal quicker than the one Obama outlined may be a better option.