From CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo
Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman suggested a total defeat of the Taliban during CNN's Republican presidential debate on national security issues Tuesday night –- with Huntsman’s comments standing in stark contrast to the reality of the continuing attacks by the group in the country.
"We have dismantled the Taliban, we've run them out of Kabul," the former Utah governor said when explaining why he believes the United States should have a much smaller troop presence in Afghanistan than the almost 100,000 troops there now. "We need a presence on the ground that is more akin to 10-to-15,000 that will help with intelligence gathering and special forces responsibility."
But the Taliban continues to be a threat, and attacks orchestrated by the group continue month after month in-country.
By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy
GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman offered differing views Tuesday nighton how a president should reach decisions about matters such as U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Romney made it clear he believes a president should listen to his commanders on the ground when making such a decision. "The commander-in-chief makes that decision based upon the input of people closest to the ground," Romney said during Tuesday night's CNN Republican presidential debate.
Huntsman said just listening to the commanders on the ground would be a mistake for a president.
"I also remember when people listened to the generals in 1967 and we heard a certain course of action in South Asia that didn't serve our interests very well. The president is the commander-in-chief and ought to be informed by a lot of different voices, including of those of his generals on the ground."
While they differed on how much influence the generals on the ground should have, they both implied that the president's military advisers speak with one voice on these matters. That's not always the case.
In December of 2009, President Barack Obama was mulling over how many "surge" troops to send to Afghanistan. Shortly before he made his decision, CNN sources said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was recommending 40,000 more troops. Obama decided to send 30,000.
Last summer when Obama was trying to decide how many U.S. troops to pull out of Afghanistan, then-Gen. David Patraeus, McChrystal's replacement in Afghanistan, was recommending, according to sources, pulling out 5,000 troops. Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates was looking at a 10,000-troop pullout. Obama decided to pullout 33,000 by the end of next summer.
After the president's announcement, Petraeus admitted the number was higher than he thought should be removed. "The ultimate decision was a more aggressive formulation, if you will, in terms of the timeline than what we had recommended," Petraeus said last June.
Even Adm. Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thought the president's withdrawal plans were more bold than he wanted to see. "What I can tell you is, the president's decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept," Mullen said.
Had President Obama listened to just his commanders in Afghanistan, as Romney seemed to indicate, the nature of the war in Afghanistan could have looked very different over then next year.
Texas Governor Rick Perry said Tuesday that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta should resign if forced to implement automatic cuts in military spending caused by the failure of Congress to reach a deficit reduction agreement.
Back in August, Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr asked Panetta if he would consider quitting if the cuts happened. Panetta said he's not going to quit.
The Republican presidential hopefuls are all over the map on their foreign policy stances. CNN's Jill Dougherty reports.
By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Pam Benson
While international sanctions continue to mount against Iran and its nuclear program, the Obama administration acknowledged Tuesday the steps have done little to change Iran's behavior.
National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon said at a conference at the Brookings Institution that Iran is paying a steep price for its intransigence. Growing international sanctions, diplomatic isolation and growing defense alliances in the region continue to ratchet up the pressure on Iran and have helped slow down its nuclear efforts.
But Donilon also admitted that "the Iranian regime has not fundamentally altered its behavior."
By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
As he prepared to debate his fellow GOP candidates on national security matters, former House speaker Newt Gingrich unveiled a national security advisory team Tuesday that features some recognizable names from past administrations.
R. James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA under President Bill Clinton, and Robert McFarlane, who served as national security adviser for President Ronald Reagan, are part of a team of 13 advisers who will counsel Gingrich on a variety of national security topics as the campaign goes forward.
"I have depended on the counsel of this world-class group of experts throughout my career and I am honored that they have decided to be with me as we work to ensure that the United States remains the safest, strongest, and freest country in the world," Gingrich said in a written statement announcing the team.
By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
There is one area where all eight Republican candidates seem to be in complete agreement: In their minds, Barack Obama's presidency has been a failure, and his national security policies have only served to weaken America's standing in the world, and left the United States more vulnerable to attack. That consensus aside, there are positions each candidate has taken in the areas of foreign policy and national security that set them apart from the field. As CNN prepares to host a debate Tuesday night on national security topics with the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, here is a look at some distinctive positions and experiences the candidates are raising on the trail.
What sets Herman Cain completely apart from the rest of the field is his lack of foreign policy experience, and it is that distinction he is happy to wear as a badge of honor on the trail and his debate performances.
While he may lack experience in the foreign policy establishment, Cain says it would be his experience in the business world that would guide him on matters of national security.
By General Michael Hagee, USMC (Ret.) and Admiral James Loy, USCG (Ret.), Special to CNN
EDITOR'S NOTE: General Michael W. Hagee, USMC (Ret.), was the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps from 2003 to 2006, and Admiral James M. Loy, USCG (Ret.), was the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1998 to 2002, and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005. They are co-chairs of the National Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.
The next Commander in Chief will face a complex and difficult set of global challenges. Recently, many candidates for president have spoken of the need to listen to the advice of military leaders on national security, and we appreciate the respect shown to our men and women in uniform. As former Commandants of the U.S. Marine Corps and Coast Guard, we believe our nation needs a smart power approach to national security that embraces a strategic investment in our foreign assistance programs.
When both of us entered uniformed service more than 40 years ago, the primary threats to America’s security were nation states with advanced militaries. Today, our country faces a different array of threats and potential adversaries – from rising powers and rogue nations to terrorist and militia groups that thrive in environments of deprivation and stunted development. FULL POST