Republican Presidential Hopefuls Going Dovish on Afghanistan

Former Utah governor doesn't want to play 'traffic cop' in Afghanistan.

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Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich wasn't asked specifically in Monday's debate about Afghanistan. Though he too said that the United States needs to reassess strategy concerning troops and learn from commanders in the field. "We should say to the generals, 'We would like to figure out [how] to get out as rapid as possible with the safety of the troops involved,' " he said. "And we had better find new and very different strategies because this is too big a problem for us to deal with the American ground forces in direct combat."

Minnesota GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, who announced her candidacy this week, had been critical of Obama's decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009. She wasn't given an opportunity to speak on the issue at the debate Monday.

According to Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster who has signed on to work for Huntsman if and when he announces his candidacy, the trend among the GOP candidates to push for troop withdrawal is a reflection of a broader change in public opinion. He says the issue is an opportunity for them "to demonstrate some independent thinking" on a significant challenge. "What they're doing is reflecting the frustration of the American public with what appears to be a war that just keeps going on and on and on," he says.

Once Obama publicizes his strategy for Afghanistan, perhaps as early as next week, voters are likely to hear more from the GOP candidates on how they would proceed differently in Afghanistan beyond 2012.

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