CLINTON: We have to support Arab & Kurdish fighters. It is important to keep the Iraqi army on a path where they can take back territory. They're doing the fighting. We're doing the support and enabling. I want to continue, and that's what the president is doing.
SANDERS: Let me agree with much of what the secretary said, but where we differ is on the war in Iraq, which created barbaric organizations like ISIS. Not only did I vote against that war, I helped lead the opposition. It gives me no pleasure to tell you that much of what I feared would happen the day after Saddam Hussein was overthrown, in fact, did happen. I think our task is to make certain that our young men and women in the military do not get sucked into never-ending, perpetual warfare within the quagmire of Syria and Iraq. It must be Muslim troops on the ground that destroy ISIS, with the support of a coalition of major powers.
CLINTON: Absolutely. We have to figure out how to deal with Iran as the principal state sponsor of terrorism in the world. They are destabilizing governments in the region. They continue to support Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon against Israel. If we were to normalize relations right now, we would remove one of the biggest pieces of leverage we have to try to influence and change Iranian behaviour. The president doesn't think we should. I certainly don't think we should. I believe we have to take this step by step to try to reign in Iranian aggression.
SANDERS: I never said that. I think we should move forward as quickly as we can. They are a sponsor of terrorism around the world and we have to address that. A number of years ago, people were saying, "normal relationship with Cuba, what a bad and silly idea." Well, change has come.
A: We have to support Arab and Kurdish fighters. It is important to keep the Iraqi army on a path where they can take back territory. They're doing the fighting. We're doing the support and enabling. I am against American combat troops being in Syria and Iraq. I support special forces. I support trainers. I support the air campaign. I want to continue, and that's what the president is doing.
"What we need is for people to work together to address these issues. They are serious issues, and what's not helpful is political grandstanding and fear-mongering about the issues we face," Shaheen said.
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.
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
HUNTSMAN: The end of 2013.
ROMNEY: Well, we want to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can. The commanders are saying they think 2014 is a better date. If I'm president, I will inform myself based upon the experience of the people on the ground that are leading our effort there. I want to make sure that we hand off the responsibility to an Afghan security force that is capable of maintaining the sovereignty of their nation from the Taliban. I don't want to do something that would put in jeopardy the hard earned success which we've had there. And 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: 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.
GINGRICH: I think we're asking the wrong questions. Afghanistan is a tiny piece of a gigantic mess that is very dangerous. Pakistan is unstable and they probably have between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons. Iran is actively trying to get nuclear weapons. They go out and practice closing the Strait of Hormuz, where one out of every six barrels of oil goes through every day. You have the Muslim Brotherhood winning the elections in Egypt. The truth is, we don't know who's in charge in Libya. You have a region-wide crisis, which we have been mismanaging and underestimating, which is not primarily a military problem. We're not going to go in and solve Pakistan militarily. We're not going to go in and solve all these other things. We need a fundamentally new strategy for the region comparable to what we developed to fight the cold war. And I think it's a very big, hard, long-term problem, but it's not primarily a military problem.
SANTORUM: Well, I wouldn't right now.
PERRY: I would send troops back into Iraq.
PERRY: I think we start talking with the Iraqi individuals there. The idea that we allow the Iranians to come back into Iraq and take over that country, with all of the treasure, both in blood and money, that we have spent in Iraq, because this president wants to kowtow to his liberal, leftist base and move out those men and women. He could have renegotiated that timeframe. I think it is a huge error for us. We're going to see Iran, in my opinion, move back in at literally the speed of light. They're going to move back in, and all of the work that we've done, every young man that has lost his life in that country will have been for nothing because we've got a president that does not understand what's going on in that region.
SANTORUM: Well, I wouldn't right now, but we need someone who has a strong vision for the region and we have not had that with this president. He has been making mistakes at every turn in Iran, in Egypt, I would argue, Libya, Syria, Israel. All of these places, he has made mistakes on the ground that have shown the people in that region that we are the weak horse. That is something that cannot happen because it will cause events like you're seeing in the Straits of Hormuz. There will be push. America is soft and so they can be pushed around. That's what this administration has done. They did it by withdrawing from Iraq, and [the same] if we get out of Afghanistan. Let's just wait and see how things turn out when the United States isn't there and see how consequential our efforts were for the stability of that region.
HUNTSMAN: So how long do you want to wait?
SANTORUM: Until the security of our country is ensured.
PAUL: I don't want Iran to get a nuclear weapon. But sanctions themselves always leads up to war.
SANTORUM: Well, Ron, we have a very great relationship with the Iranian people. The Iranian people have taken to the streets repeatedly and still do, in trying to overthrow their government. And we had a president of the United States who stood silently by as thousands were killed on the streets, and did nothing. In fact, he tacitly supported the results of the election. When I was in the Senate, I pushed to help those revolutionaries before the revolution, to give them resources. The Iranian people love America because we stand up for the truth and call evil, which is what Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are, we call evil what it is. That's why they admire us, because we tell the truth. Now we just have to have a president that helps them to do what is necessary, which is to turn that regime out.
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