By John T. Bennett - 06/22/11 01:38 PM EDT
GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman on Wednesday said the 10,000-troop Afghanistan withdrawal plan President Obama will unveil should be larger, while also calling for a new strategy in the decade-old war.
Huntsman called for a larger withdrawal over the next 12 months during several morning show interviews, and said he favors a shift from the current counterinsurgency strategy to one based on counterterrorism.
“I think over the next year there’s room to draw down more … More than 10,000 over the next year,” the former Utah governor said on ABC’s "Good Morning America."
Huntsman, who worked for the Obama administration as ambassador to China and officially entered the GOP presidential race on Tuesday, called Obama’s plan “a little slow and a little cautious.”
Defense experts told The Hill on Tuesday that Obama's withdrawal plan seems tailored to buy time for a counterinsurgency strategy that began to work last year after the president and his aides decided to inject what had been a flailing mission with 33,000 more American troops.
But Huntsman questioned what had been accomplished after a nearly decade-long war that took place alongside another expensive fight in Iraq.
“I think we have to see — nine years and 50 days into this conflict, the money that has been spent on both conflicts, well over $1 trillion, I think we have to say, ‘What have we accomplished in Afghanistan?’ ” he said.
Washington has spent $1.3 trillion on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars since Sept. 11, 2001, including around $400 billion in Afghanistan.
Huntsman noted that “one in every six Defense Department dollars is going to support what we are doing in Afghanistan.”
On the “Today Show,” Huntsman said what’s needed is "some nation-building here at home" as the U.S. economy continues to stumble.
On MSNBC's “Morning Joe,” Huntsman said it is time to “get real” about what can be accomplished there.
“I think what you want to be left with is a good counter-terror capability, an intelligence-collection capability, some training capability,” Huntsman said on "Good Morning America."
His preferred Afghanistan strategy puts him in line with a growing number of lawmakers who are ready to wrap up the Afghanistan conflict.
For instance, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and several other typically hawkish House Republicans are talking privately about a large drawdown and a shift toward a counterterrorism-based strategy, a GOP aide told The Hill.
Republican candidates for president, including GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, have also called for a quick withdrawal of troops.