Monday, at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire, a military veteran asked presumptive GOP nominees Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan: "Our guys are coming home in body bags. [...] You guys take over in Washington, what are you going to do about this damn mess in Afghanistan?"
Romney replied that President Obama has not explained to the American people what's going on:
"I can tell you this, when I become commander in chief if I'm so lucky, I will address the American people about these issues. [...] With regards to Afghanistan, I will do everything in my power to transition from our military to their military as soon as possible, bring our men and women home and do so in a way consistent with our mission, which is to keep Afghanistan from being overrun by a new entity that would allow Afghanistan to be a launching point for terror again like it was on 9/11."Specifics on what, when, how? Zilch.
This isn't the first time Romney has complained that President Obama has not explained why the United States is in Afghanistan or what it hopes to accomplish there. Like Richard Nixon on the campaign trail discussing another war decades ago, Romney seems to have a secret plan for Afghanistan. Back in March, he was making the same accusations and providing the same mush-mouthed pronouncements about communicating with the American people. Then as now he wasn't providing even the barest skeleton of a proposal for "bring[ing] our troops home as soon as humanly possible.”
Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith replied on Monday with pretty much what she had said last March:
"That’s simply not enough from someone running to be commander-in-chief. The truth is that Romney has refused to put forth a plan for what he would do in Afghanistan. If he does have some secret plan, he owes it to our men and women in uniform to tell them," Smith said.The president has explained his plans for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Combat troops out in 2013, all of them out by the end of 2014. Romney himself has said he would have troops out by the end of 2014 as well. Beyond that, all we have is Romney's blather about communicating with the American people after he's plunked himself down behind the big desk in the Oval Office.
"The president has repeatedly outlined a specific plan for how we are going to bring our troops home responsibly and end the war by the end of 2014, including during a trip he made to Afghanistan in May. That’s what the American people deserve in their commander-in-chief,” Smith said.
Not a word, for instance, about whether he might alter the use of armed drone aircraft, a sore point with Pakistan, with Ben Emmerson, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, and with what remains of the U.S. antiwar movement.
Not a word about how he would do things differently to root out corruption in the Afghan government or deal with "green-on-blue" killings by Afghan "allies" on U.S. and other NATO troops in the country.
Not a word about whether he would urge talks with the Taliban or how he would obtain funding necessary to keep the Afghan National Army stocked with ammunition and socks once the U.S. withdrawal is complete.
Not a hint, in fact, that he's thought two ticks past the script that his retread neoconservative advisers have provided him on the subject. Their advice should, however, be a perfect fit for have-it-both-ways Romney: He can both stay and leave Afghanistan while taking on another war somewhere else, just as these guys counseled in 2003.