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Jon Huntsman on War & Peace

Republican UT Governor


Draw down to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan by 2013

Q: What is the earliest you think our 90,000 troops in Afghanistan should be brought home?

HUNTSMAN: We've been at the war on terror for 10 years now, we've been in Afghanistan. And I say we've got a lot to show for our efforts: The Taliban is no longer in power. We've run out al Qaeda, they're now in sanctuaries. We've had free elections. Osama bin Laden is no longer around. We have strengthened civil society. We've helped the military. We've helped the police. I believe it's time to come home. And I would say within the first year of my administration, which is to say the end of 2013, I would want to draw them down. I don't want to be nation building in Southwest Asia when this nation is in such need of repair. Afghanistan is not a counter insurgency. But we do have a counter-terror mission in Southwest Asia. And that would suppose leaving behind maybe 10,000 troops for intelligence gathering, for Special Forces rapid response capability and training.

Source: WMUR 2012 GOP New Hampshire debate , Jan 7, 2012

We listened to generals in Vietnam; don't repeat our mistake

ROMNEY: [to Huntsman]: The commanders in Afghanistan are saying they think 2014 is a better date [for withdrawal]. I would bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, of course, based upon my own experience there, informing myself of what's happening there and listening to the commanders on the ground.

HUNTSMAN: The president is the commander-in-chief. Of course you get input and advice from a lot of different corners of Washington, including the commanders on the ground. We also deferred to the commanders on the ground in about 1967, during the Vietnam War, and we didn't get very good advice then. Here's what I think is around the corner in Afghanistan. I think civil war is around the corner in Afghanistan. And I don't want to be the president who invests another penny in a civil war. I don't want to be the president who sends another man or woman into harm's way that we're not able to bring back alive. I say we've got something to show for our mission. Let's recognize that & move on

Source: WMUR 2012 GOP New Hampshire debate , Jan 7, 2012

After 10 years, Americans are ready to exit Afghanistan

Q: [to Santorum]: If the security situation were to fall apart in Iraq in 2012 would you support sending US troops back to the region?

SANTORUM: I'm not for taking them out of the region. We want victory.

HUNTSMAN: The world is a better place when th US is strong. So guiding anything that we talk about from a foreign policy standpoint needs to be fixing our core. But, second of all, I believe that, you know, after 10 years of fighting the war on terror, people are ready to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. This country has given its all. What remains behind, some element to collect intelligence, special forces capability, and we're going to have to do that in every corner of the world. But we need to fix this core and get serious about what the rest of the 21st century holds for this country.

Source: 2011 GOP Google debate in Orlando FL , Sep 22, 2011

Time has come for us to get out of Afghanistan

Q: How do we protect the women and children of Afghanistan from the radicals?

HUNTSMAN: We are 10 years into this war. America has given its all in Afghanistan. We have families who have given the ultimate sacrifice. And it's to them that we offer our heartfelt salute. But the time has come for us to get out of Afghanistan. We don't need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan nation-building at a time when this nation needs to be built. We are of no value to the rest of the world if our core is crumbling, whic it is in this country. I like those days when Ronald Reagan said that the light of this country would shine brightly for liberty, democracy, human rights, and free markets. We're not shining like we used to shine. We need to shine again. And when we star shining again, it's going to help the women of Afghanistan, along with any other NGO work. We can get it done, but we have to make sure that the Afghan people increasingly take responsibility for their security going forward.

Source: 2011 GOP Tea Party debate in Tampa FL , Sep 12, 2011

Bring troops home from Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the reality is it is an asymmetrical counterterror effort. We need intelligence. We need special forces. And we need some training on the ground. But I think one way to commemorate our 10-year anniversary of 9/11, remembering the 3,000-plus people who died in New York and in Pennsylvania and in Washington, is to say it's time for this country to set a goal for ourselves: We're going to get our core fixed. We're going to do some nation-building right here at home.
Source: 2011 GOP debate in Simi Valley CA at the Reagan Library , Sep 7, 2011

Playing Afghan traffic cop doesn't serve strategic interest

Huntsman has begun to distinguish himself in a crowded field by becoming the first to call for a rapid withdrawal of U.S troops from Afghanistan. "If you can't define a winning exit strategy for the American people, where we somehow come out ahead, then we're wasting our money, and we're wasting our strategic resources," Huntsman told Esquire as part of a long profile in its August issue. "It's a tribal state, and it always will be. Whether we like it or not, whenever we withdraw from Afghanistan, whether it's now or years from now, we'll have an incendiary situation. Should we stay and play traffic cop? I don't think that serves our strategic interests."

Huntsman also told Esquire that he plans on running a campaign built in part on the parallel platforms of debt reduction and ending the war in Afghanistan.

Source: Chris Jones in Esquire magazine , Jun 15, 2011

Boots on the ground: expensive & not critical for security

Huntsman also commented on the military intervention in Libya, saying that if he had been president he would not have followed the same course of action. The benefits of the military action are outweighed by the need for serious cuts in the military's budget, he said; "We just can't afford it." Huntsman's comments are consistent with a shifting Republican view of the use of American military force. Past Republican candidates for president have had a nearly unanimous hawkish view on the use of the military. But that consensus is weakening in the face of the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In a recent interview with the Times, Huntsman noted that the US would "likely have 10,000 or 15,000 troops behind who are prepared to collect intelligence and fight an asymmetric war against terror." But he said that "the very expensive boots on the ground may be something that is not critical for our national security needs, nor is it something we can afford this point in our economic history."
Source: Michael Shear in New York Times "The Caucus" , Jun 15, 2011

We can't afford the NATO operation in Libya

Q: Should the president have supported the NATO operation in Libya? Is that in the vital national interest of the US? I had a conversation with a soon-to-be candidate who is not here tonight, Governor Huntsman, recently, who said he didn't think when it came to vital national interest. And he also said we can't afford it right now. Should the price tag be a factor when you're the commander in chief?

GINGRICH: Sure. The price tag is always a factor, because that's part of the decision.

Source: 2011 GOP primary debate in Manchester NH , Jun 13, 2011

Other candidates on War & Peace: Jon Huntsman on other issues:
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Page last updated: Mar 24, 2013