October 23rd, 2012
05:24 AM ET

Checking Obama and Romney’s facts from Monday’s foreign policy debate

President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney exchanged fire on foreign policy and national security Monday in their last debate before Election Day. With tension in the air and undecided voters at stake, each candidate challenged the other's claims and positions. CNN conducted fact checks on each politician’s assertions. Click on the headlines for more.

CNN Fact Check: Comparing costs of Iraq, Libya missions

President Barack Obama asserted during Monday's presidential debate that it cost the United States less to help oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi than it did to run two weeks of the 2003-2011 war in Iraq.

We can attempt a comparison by examining the Defense Department's spending on the two operations.

CNN Fact Check: Romney, Obama and Iraq

Although it has been over for nearly a year now, the war in Iraq continued to be a flash point in Monday night's debate between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"You say that you're not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq," said Obama, a Democrat who opposed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. "But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now. ... You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day."

But Romney, who supported the invasion, said Obama wanted to keep U.S. troops there longer - he just couldn't get the Iraqis to go along.

FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • debate • Foreign Policy • Obama • Romney
Congress Wars: Battle for the defense budget
May 28th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Congress Wars: Battle for the defense budget

By Mike Mount, Senior National Security Producer

In what is shaping up to be a classic congressional right vs. left fight over defense and war funding, both the House and Senate are gearing up to battle over some expected and not-so-expected items in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the bill, showing its hand to members of the House of Representatives on what it felt should be authorized for military spending.

The act authorizes spending limits and sets defense policy, but it does not actually appropriate the funds.

The committee version must still pass a full Senate vote. The House signed off on its bill this month. While a date has yet to be announced, both the final House and Senate versions will go through extensive negotiations to hammer out a final version of the legislation, expected in the fall.

Both bills have numerous amendments that will be debated and fought over in the coming months. Keep an eye on these five if you like political fireworks.

FULL POST

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
Perry: Panetta should resign
November 22nd, 2011
10:13 PM ET

Perry: Panetta should resign

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.

FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • debate • Defense Spending • Panetta • Perry
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: Should Pakistan be engaged or contained?
November 7th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

DEBATE PREP: Should Pakistan be engaged or contained?

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 Sadanand Dhume, Special to CNN

The raid in May on Osama bin Laden's compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad has brought intense focus on Washington's policy toward Islamabad.  Since then, the weight of informed opinion - in influential op-eds, think tank reports, and magazine articles - has coalesced around a consensus: the current policy has failed.

Ostensibly, since 2004 Pakistan has been a major non-NATO ally of the United States, a status it shares with such stalwart friends as Israel, Japan and Australia.

In 2009, the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, also known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, boosted aid to Pakistan by $1.5 billion a year through 2013.  These blandishments were meant to encourage Islamabad to co-operate with Washington in fighting terrorism.

Though Pakistani authorities have at times helped round up wanted al Qaeda leaders from their soil, their overall record has been disappointing.  Of particular concern to the US:  continued Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militants who regularly use safe havens in Pakistan to attack US troops in Afghanistan. FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Al-Zawahiri • Analysis • Bachman • Cain • CIA • debate • Debate Preps • Diplomacy • Foreign Policy • Gingrich • Haqqani • Huntsman • ISI • Living With Terror • Military • Nuclear • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Paul • Perry • Romney • Santorum • Taliban • Terrorism • Think tank
DEBATE PREP: Is this the only path to victory in Afghanistan?
November 7th, 2011
06:05 AM ET

DEBATE PREP: Is this the only path to victory in Afghanistan?

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 Frederick Kagan, Special to CNN

What do we need to achieve in Afghanistan in order to protect the security of the United States and its allies?

That core question should shape any discussion of our strategy in Afghanistan or the resources we devote to executing it.  But that question is too often obscured.

Many say that pursuing any kind of “success” in Afghanistan, the supposed “graveyard of empires,” is sheer folly.  Others say that is has become irrelevant, and that the death of Osama bin Laden has deprived the war in Afghanistan of continued meaning.

These facile assertions produce more palatable answers, but do not answer the core question.  Presidents and candidates for president owe
Americans a clear and cogent answer, at least, as well as an explanation for how their proposed strategy that they lay out will accomplish the requirements for American security. FULL POST

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Filed under: 10 years of war • 2012 Election • Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Analysis • Bachman • Cain • debate • Debate Preps • Foreign Policy • Gingrich • Huntsman • Intelligence • ISAF • Kabul • Karzai • Living With Terror • Military • Obama • Pakistan • Paul • Perry • Politics • Romney • Santorum • Taliban • Terrorism
Finally, a word about national security (a debate, actually)...
November 7th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Finally, a word about national security (a debate, actually)...

Without question, the public's attention in the race for the White House has centered on the economy and domestic issues.  It’s a sign of how things have changed since the start of these post-September 11th times.  In 2004 and 2008, a good portion of the discussion focused on keeping American safe and foreign policy. But things began to shift as the 2008 election was wrapping up and the economy was hurting.

Now there is no question the campaign talk has moved from 9/11 to 9-9-9 (and other economic plans). A fact not lost on the Republican candidates who spend little time talking about national security issues.  Debate after debate, interview after interview, domestic issues have dominated the campaign so far.  Until now.

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. From Afghanistan toIraq,ChinatoSyria, cybersecurity to defense spending, the folks at Heritage Foundation and AEI will make sure you are fully prepped for the big debate.

The first in the series will publish today on Security Clearance.  For more coverage of the campaign, don't forget to read CNN's Political Ticker and our political section on CNN.com.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • 9/11 • Afghanistan • Africa • Al-Shabaab • Analysis • Anwar al-Awlaki • Arab Spring • Asia • Bachman • bioterrorism • Budget • Cain • China • CIA • Congress • Cybersecurity • debate • Debate Preps • Defense Spending • Diplomacy • drones • Egypt • EU • Foreign Policy • Gingrich • Gitmo • Haqqani • Homeland Security • Huntsman • Iran • Iraq • ISI • Israel • Libya • Living With Terror • Middle East • Military • NATO • Nuclear • Obama • Opinion • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Palestine • Paul • Pentagon • Perry • Politics • Republican • Romney • Russia • Santorum • Saudi Arabia • Secretary of State • South Korea • Spying • State Department • Syria • Taliban • Terrorism • Think tank • United Nations • weapons
Should the U.S. borrow less and tell China to donate more aid?
October 19th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Should the U.S. borrow less and tell China to donate more aid?

By CNN's Adam Levine

It was a single line in a Republican debate focused mostly on domestic issues, but former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's suggestion that the U.S. borrow less from China, pull back some on humanitarian aid and push China to give more instead got the attention of the audience in the hall.

The comment came during a heated discussion about spending cuts at Tuesday's night's presidential debate in Nevada sponsored by CNN and the Western Republican Leadership Conference.

"I happen to think it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give to another country for humanitarian aid. We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people," Romney said to applause from the assembled crowd of western state Republicans.

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams told CNN Wednesday the candidate "was not suggesting that the United States should eliminate all spending on foreign assistance and instead leave it to other governments to engage in that activity.  Rather, he was making the point about the need to prioritize what we spend our federal dollars on given the state of our federal defect." FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • China • debate • Diplomacy • Foreign Policy • Romney