Washington (CNN) – A potential contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nod praised President Obama’s decision to surge 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan and, at the same time, questioned the wisdom of Obama’s decision to announce a date to begin to draw down the additional troops.
President Obama used a speech at West Point last week to announce that he has ordered 30,000 additional troops to be sent to Afghanistan as part of a new, refocused strategy intended to quell the Taliban and help the Afghan government build up its own security forces. As part of the new strategy, Obama also said last week that the U.S. would begin to remove those additional troops in July 2011, depending upon the conditions on the ground in the war-torn country.
“I think he’s made the right decision with regards to Afghanistan in a general direction,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
“And, by the way, you’re noting that Republicans are not making this a political football,” the former White House hopeful added. “Republicans are saying ‘Yeah, he’s done the right thing here.’”
But, Romney’s praise of Obama quickly turned to criticism.
“It took him a long time,” Romney said of Obama’s 3-month deliberation process. “That was a mistake, of course.
“I think he is mistaken also in sending these conflicting and confusing signals about the timeline because you don’t want in any way to have [Pakistan or Afghanistan] thinking that somehow we’re only in there for 18 months and then we’re getting out no matter what. That’s not the message you want to have heard.”
Romney also questioned Obama’s judgment in providing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan with 30, 000 additional troops when McChrystal had reportedly requested 40,000 more.
“My first question is not, ok, how do I get it down to 30,000?” Romney told CNN Chief National correspondent John King. “My first question is what’s the right number?”
“I think [Obama] may have been a little unwise to cut back on that number,” Romney said Sunday. “But we sure hope [Obama’s surge] works,” the Republican added.
Romney’s comments echoed those of Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl who said earlier on State of the Union that Republicans generally supported Obama’s decision to order the surge.
But “I think he has complicated matters by having this firm beginning-of-withdrawal date” of July 2011, added Kyl.
“The reason I said it complicates matters is that in war, will matters, “explained Kyl, “In fact, the whole object of war is to break the will of the enemy to fight.”