Huntsman's claim of Taliban defeat is not reality
November 22nd, 2011
11:20 PM ET

Huntsman's claim of Taliban defeat is not reality

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.
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Filed under: 2012 Election • Afghanistan • Huntsman • Kabul • Taliban
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
November 22nd, 2011
06:51 PM ET

GOP candidates differ on foreign policy views

The Republican presidential hopefuls are all over the map on their foreign policy stances. CNN's Jill Dougherty reports.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Bachman • Cain • Foreign Policy • Gingrich • Huntsman • Paul • Perry • Romney • Santorum
Separating from the GOP candidate pack
November 22nd, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Separating from the GOP candidate pack

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.
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Herman Cain

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.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Bachman • Cain • Debate Preps • Foreign Policy • Gingrich • Huntsman • Paul • Perry • Romney • Santorum
DEBATE PREP: Speak up about Mexican drug violence
Scarves embroidered with the account of murders are on display in a park in Mexico City
November 21st, 2011
01:20 PM ET

DEBATE PREP: Speak up about Mexican drug violence

Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.

By AEI's Roger F. Noriega, Special to CNN

Republican presidential candidates have had little constructive to say on the issue of the bloody drug violence in neighboring Mexico.  They can change that as they meet to debate on Tuesday night.

President Obama’s Mexico strategy picked up where the Bush-era “Merida Plan” package left off.  It  amounts to “less of the same,” as U.S. law enforcement and community development support is delivered in dribs and drabs.  In 2012, if Mexicans choose a new president who decides to end the anti-drug offensive, we may wish that we had done more to support our Mexican allies when we had the chance.

Outgoing President Felipe Calderon launched a frontal offensive against criminal syndicates five years ago, enlisting the military alongside outgunned civilian police.  Although the vast majority of the 35,000 deaths in recent years are the result of criminal turf wars, most innocent Mexicans are beleaguered by insecurity and violence.  Many Mexicans wonder why they are paying such a high price to fight the illicit drug trade that services the insatiable demand for drugs in the United States – particularly when U.S. policy makers appear either indifferent or worse to their plight. FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • Analysis • Bachman • Cain • Congress • Debate Preps • Gingrich • Huntsman • Mexico • Paul • Perry • Romney • Santorum
DEBATE PREP:  Back to the strategic future
November 21st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

DEBATE PREP: Back to the strategic future

Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.

By AEI's Thomas Donnelly and Heritage Foundation's Baker Spring, Special to CNN

It is only a small exaggeration to say that the United States hasn’t had a coherent national security strategy since the end of the Cold War. To be sure, we have produced a back-breaking number of strategy documents and discussions, both in government and in think-tanks and academia.  And, at least until the Obama Administration moved into re-elect mode, there’s been a pretty consistent pattern to American strategic behavior.  But if we wish to maintain a “balance of power that favors freedom” and the American geopolitical leadership without which that balance goes tipsy, we need to start taking strategy-making seriously.

In a search for strategic clarity, we can do no better than to re-read the NSC 68 report done by the Truman Administration at the start of the Cold War.  While that document framed the policy of containment and the subsequent practical strategies that ushered the Soviet Union out of business, its enduring insight – one we appear to have lost touch with – is about the role of America in the world.  That role, the report declared, was anchored in the domestic character of the republic, and had consequences. FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • Analysis • Bachman • Budget • Cain • Debate Preps • Defense Spending • Diplomacy • Gingrich • Huntsman • Military • Obama • Paul • Pentagon • Perry • Politics • Romney • Santorum • Think tank
DEBATE PREP: Missile defense is not expendable
November 20th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

DEBATE PREP: Missile defense is not expendable

Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.

By Heritage Foundation's Bruce Klingner and Sally McNamara, Special to CNN

Ballistic missiles pose an increasing risk to the United States and its allies, particularly as more nations strive to acquire nuclear weapons. The once exclusive nuclear weapons club now has nine members, and Iran is knocking on the clubhouse door. Altogether, at least 32 countries have ballistic missile capabilities.

Defending the United States, its forward-deployed troops, and its friends and allies against such threats should be a national security priority for the U.S. president. We have a fledgling missile defense capability. But further investment, research and procurement are needed to truly realize a fully effective ballistic missile defense (BMD) system.

FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • Analysis • Bachman • Cain • China • Debate Preps • Defense Spending • Gingrich • Huntsman • Paul • Perry • Romney • Santorum
The national security brains behind the GOP candidates
November 18th, 2011
12:06 PM ET

The national security brains behind the GOP candidates

Editor's note: On November 22, CNN, along with conservative think tanks AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics.

By Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott

There are a few models for presidential candidates seeking to bone up on national security issues.

First, there's the George W. Bush model.  You hire a lean, high-powered team of foreign policy heavyweights to help hammer out foreign policy, defense and intelligence proposals.  The Vulcans, as the Bush team was called, included former Secretary of State George Shultz and Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz.  They traded e-mail messages and held conference calls and meetings at the then-Texas governor's mansion, where they hammered out his national security positions.  Once in office, the majority of the Vulcans became Bush's national security team.

Then there's the Barack Obama model, which sucks up all the foreign policy talent in Washington to present an impressive front about the candidate's expertise, thereby denying the privilege to his competitors.  Obama was in a brain arms race with Hillary Clinton, who had a similar approach, in the '08 primary.  It's like the annual Filene's Basement wedding dress sale.  When the doors open, brides rush to scoop up all of the dresses they can find, regardless of the style or fit, depriving fellow brides a dress in case they may want it later.

The problem with this approach is that you have no idea what the bride will look like on her wedding day. FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Bachman • Cain • debate • Foreign Policy • Gingrich • Huntsman • Paul • Perry • Romney • Santorum
DEBATE PREP: U.S. needs to lead from the front on Syria
November 18th, 2011
10:10 AM ET

DEBATE PREP: U.S. needs to lead from the front on Syria

Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.

By AEI's Danielle Pletka, Special to CNN

It didn't take much conviction to decide Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had to go after the Egyptian military turned on him.  Ditto for Libya’s Muammar Qadhafi, once large portions of the country had freed themselves from his rule and our European allies were clamoring for military intervention.  But when the outcome is in doubt, as in Syria, Barack Obama is sitting on the fence.

Consider the stakes: Syria is Iran's most important ally. Under President Bashar al-Assad, Syria remains the patron of Hezbollah, and home to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It was the conduit by which terrorists traveled to Iraq to kill Americans.

But Assad isn't letting go easily. There are few fissures inside his regime. Ambassadors are not resigning, nor are generals defecting.  The Arab League and Turkey may chide Assad’s vicious response to his opponents, but they appear unwilling to back their rhetoric with action. FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • Analysis • Arab Spring • Assad • Bachman • Cain • China • Debate Preps • Diplomacy • Foreign Policy • Gingrich • Huntsman • Iran • Iraq • Middle East • Obama • Paul • Perry • Romney • Russia • Santorum • Syria
DEBATE PREP: America the cyber sucker?
November 16th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

DEBATE PREP: America the cyber sucker?

Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.

By The Heritage Foundation's James Jay Carafano, Special to CNN

The scene from "Casablanca" says it all.

"I'm shocked-shocked to find that gambling is going on in here," Police Inspector Renault declares.  Immediately, the croupier hands the chief inspector his roulette table winnings.

Renault's disingenuousness disclaimer could be the tag line for U.S. cyber security policy. Just last month, the Director of National Intelligence delivered a report to Congress – "Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace."  Its "shocking" conclusion: China and Russia are stealing us blind.

Quelle surprise! Chinese beachheads in U.S. cyberspace have turned up time and again for years.  Not long ago Chinese hackers so thoroughly penetrated the computer network at the U.S. National Defense University in Washington, D.C., the entire system had to be shut down and cleaned out.

As for the Russians, they've long been recognized as a real "bear" online.  The infamous Russian Business Network (RBN) brazenly ran all manner of illicit online operations- and there was never much doubt that they were working in collusion with Kremlin officials. FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • Analysis • Bachman • Cain • China • Cybersecurity • Debate Preps • Gingrich • Huntsman • Paul • Perry • Romney • Russia • Santorum • Technology
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