Republican candidates begrudgingly praised President Obama’s decision, announced Thursday, to delay troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, while using the news as a chance to slam his foreign policy.
This is something the GOP has largely been urging the president to do – and many of the party’s presidential candidates have campaigned on the issue. But several still criticized the president’s Afghanistan strategy, with some arguing that stabilizing the war-torn country requires more U.S. troops than Obama is deploying.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a statement he was “glad President Obama has dropped his plan to abandon the region entirely,” but added: “If he is truly committed to fighting terrorism and securing a stable Afghanistan, he shouldn’t short change what our military commanders have said they need to complete the mission.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said: “[N]ow that the situation has deteriorated on the ground, I think it’s a wise decision,” but criticized Obama’s last troop surge in the region, saying he would have used special forces instead.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who told NBC News this summer he believes the U.S. should stay indefinitely in the Middle East, said the president’s decision “will require our men and women in uniform to accept an incredibly high risk, with little support, simply because he’s the president who promised to end wars.”
“As president, I will follow the advice of my commanders and require a conditions-based withdrawal – not an artificial time line,” Graham added according to CNN.
In Iowa, Carly Fiorina said the president “is now recognizing that Afghanistan is becoming potentially a haven for ISIS and that the Taliban is not on the wane as he has tried to convince the American people.”
Obama said Thursday that changing circumstances on the ground in Afghanistan required U.S. troops to stay beyond his presidency to combat al Qaeda and train local security forces. That was a turnaround from last year when he outlined a plan to keep only a security force of 1,000 at the U.S. embassy in Kabul.
“While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”