Commanders view of Afghan drawdown not as simple as Huntsman and Romney say
November 22nd, 2011
10:44 PM ET

Commanders view of Afghan drawdown not as simple as Huntsman and Romney say

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.

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Filed under: 10 years of war • Afghanistan • debate • Gates • Huntsman • Military • Obama • Petraeus • Romney
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Busted

    Considering Mitt's advisors are all the same chicken hawks from the Bush administration, his policies regarding the wars are already well known and unfortunately establieshed in the republican party, "who gives a flying monkeys behind about the troops, we need to stay the course for our boy Rummy."

    November 23, 2011 at 11:43 am | Reply
  2. v_mag

    The sponsors of this debate were 2 right wing organizations and CNN. In all fairness, it should have been sponsored by the Democratic National Committee and Comedy Central. The DNC benefits the most by showing America how shallow and mean the candidates are, and the Comedy Central connection is too obvious to explain.

    November 23, 2011 at 9:18 am | Reply
    • Daniele

      I'm not a bit surprised by this. Not in the least. It's the lame etsram media who's misinformed (mal-informed), out of touch, misguided, Based on their behavior of recent years, I have to say misanthropic.The media's real job is to make money for their employer in order to remain employed. We all know good news does not sell. Neither does living a harmonious life. Hence, they're running around like a bunch of sharks with untreated ADHD.In their hearts, they must know the US would be much better off had Obama not been elected. They'll eventually turn on him, but only with a GOP opponent whose behavior they can anticipate and look to them for guidance.Frankly, there isn't a republican candidate who fits their bill, so they keep the heat on them all so voters won't coalesce behind any particular candidate.The sad part is this could have been Steve Forbes' year.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  3. Doyle Wiley, MI

    Generals knows how to make war they are bad at making peace. Presidents are leaders generals are lead.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:50 am | Reply
  4. history

    LBJ + mcnamara quit after US forces annihilated the VC during TET listened to cronkite+ press declare defeat when he should have turned troops north + crushed the retreating NVA obama as all but done the same in IRAQ now let IRAN walk in unopposed. AFGHANISTAN cut a deal with the tribal chiefs arm them against taliban if they won't play ball forget karzai+ kabul get the hell out of there after a sweep thru pakistan to crush haqqani

    November 23, 2011 at 3:52 am | Reply
    • v_mag

      Uh, no. The tet offensive was a watershed victory for the VC, and they did not get annihilated. Cronkite was correct. We could have stayed many years more and the end result would have been the same. Now, we do business with Vietnam. It wasn't a disaster to leave; it was a disaster for us to be there in the first place. The exact same applies in Afghanistan, where all our efforts, all the money spent, all the lives lost, will be in vain. You cannot change Afghanistan into a democracy or a puppet state of the US.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:25 am | Reply
  5. Aremo steve

    Comment: U dont hav to be there to get it done hav faith in urself believ in ur policies & consida them achieved & done

    November 23, 2011 at 3:39 am | Reply
  6. getoverit

    What? CNN opened comments on an article that's not about Sarah Palin? The end of the world is nigh!

    November 23, 2011 at 3:21 am | Reply
    • Lion

      told you american are brinsleas , slave of jew . they dont care what they do to the environment .again i am telling , nuclear blast makes an shock wave and tremendous amount of hit . the hit burns to as-shes and the shock wave cause the widespread damage . in a level ground in cities in almost completely destroys artificial structure , in mountainous areas you can burn few trees and the blast wave may make a big pond like gap may be 20km -50km in diameter but it depends

      May 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Reply
  7. getoverit

    More liberals spouting about a subject they know nothing about. Shut up already!

    November 23, 2011 at 2:49 am | Reply
    • v_mag

      Another wingnut trying to suppress free speech. Take your own advice.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:26 am | Reply
      • Gabriela

        Rand,I am truly confused by the posts you are pncliag on this site. If Sean Hannity laid a golden goose question like this for a conservative president I hardly believe it would be worth reporting, outside of certain websites. If Chris Mathews laid this question on the president guess what, no news here. Both are clear where they stand politically and they don't hide it.This was a CNN White House reporter. Reporters are supposed to be unbiased . And if you believe after watching that video that there was no bias in that question, you have clearly joined the ranks of not recognizing your bias. By the why, had a Fox reporter laid a question like that on a Republican President my post I placed further down in this thread would have been the same.Let me make a personal recommendation here. If you want to be taken seriously, make posts related to the subject matter and bring facts to discuss. Your sarcasm would go a lot farther if it was surrounded by facts! Stay away from the Wil Burns syndrome.

        March 3, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  8. zak

    occupy! long live anarchy!

    November 23, 2011 at 2:33 am | Reply
  9. Dabo

    Obama is the special one as far as american politics is concern.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:19 am | Reply
  10. Joseph

    Hi Jerry,
    Get a life, President Obama is the best President of the USA. Your bias is showing here dude.

    Joseph, Port Moresby, PNG

    November 23, 2011 at 12:11 am | Reply
    • Mick-In-Afghanstan

      Hey Joseph,

      Pull your head out of your @ss long enought to realize Obama is joke, he can't lead,
      and can only give speeches if the teleprompter is working.

      You must be one of the those Obamabots, with the "everything is free" gimme, gimme, gimme attitude..

      November 23, 2011 at 12:32 am | Reply
      • ddblah

        You must have been hibernating for long time. Wake up! BLD is gone, Lybia is free!

        November 23, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  11. airforcekody

    Romney is right. Make your military decisions based off of your commanders and troops that are there. Don't listen to other politicians and/or the public. They don't know what's going on over there, they don't know whats best. Listen to your ground commanders.

    November 22, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Reply
    • ddblah

      Then, we do we need a president as commander in chief. Just let the military decide what to do.

      That's a true lead-from-behind.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:18 am | Reply
    • v_mag

      That's what LBJ did for a long time, and it caused the worse military debacle in American history. His commanders lied to him because they were caught in an unwinnable war and didn't want their legacy to be defeat. Everybody has an angle, and the president can't get his information and advice solely based on one interested party or another. The job of the president is to make the best decision for America, not follow the military's orders.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:32 am | Reply
  12. jerry

    another jimmy carter mess...from the muslim brained us president

    November 22, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Reply
    • ddblah

      You wishful thinking!

      Nobody can match his accomplishment in national security. Smart policy all around. Let the arm chair quarterbacks scream all they want. They just can't match.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:20 am | Reply
    • v_mag

      Bush's record: 911, 2 useless wars started, billions wasted, Bin Laden allowed to live, torture instituted and defended.

      Obama's record: Bin Laden dead, numerous plots foiled, Ghadafi dead, ending Iraq war.

      I'll take Door Number 2, please.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:35 am | Reply

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