By Molly K. Hooper - 03/18/12 03:59 PM EDT
GOP contender Mitt Romney attacked President Obama’s foreign policy leadership on Sunday, blaming the president’s “failed leadership” for the growing instability in Afghanistan.
The former Massachusetts governor, appearing in an exclusive interview on Fox News Sunday, charged that Obama had failed to lead in Afghanistan, as well as with the intensifying situation between Iran and Israel.
Romney pointed to Obama’s “interaction with (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai and with leaders there, as well as his relative detachment from our military commanders there and the fact that he published a specific date for a withdrawal,” as leading to the increasing instability and violence in the country.
Romney also said Obama “did not oversee elections in Afghanistan that would have convinced the people there that they had elected someone that they could have confidence in, [and] did not put enough troops into the surge, as what's requested by the military.”
Tensions have grown between the Obama administration and Karzai after a series of damaging incidents. Last month, violent protests sparked by the accidental burning of Qurans at a US airbase left 6 American service members and over 30 Afghans dead. And last Sunday, a rogue US Army staff sergeant reportedly shot and killed 16 Afghan civilians, including women and children.
The civilian shootings prompted Karzai to demand that NATO troops leave Afghan villages and turn over security to Afghanistan forces ahead of their 2014 departure date.
Compounding the sense of crisis, on Thursday, Taliban negotiators said they were abandoning talks with the U.S., a key focus of the Obama administration which hoped face-to-face discussions would reduce violence after NATO’s pullout.
Romney did not specify how he’d handle it the growing tensions with Karzai’s government, as commander-in-chief.
“Before I take a stand at a particular course of action, I want to get the input from the people who are there,” Romney said.
Romney also broached the topic of Israel’s growing concern over Iran’s suspected attempt to develop nuclear arms.
Many high-ranking Republicans say that the U.S. should show unequivocal support for Israel’s right to defend itself with preventative steps to deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions, including possibly military action.
Obama however, recently called out Republicans for their “casual talk of war,” baiting the GOP presidential candidates into stating whether they would go to war with Iran.
Asked to respond to Obama’s challenge, Romney said: “I hope that crippling sanctions will now that they're finally beginning to be employed there will have an impact. I hope that if we aggressively support dissident voices in Iran, that will have an impact. And I hope that showing a military commitment on our part, and a recognition that we have a military option, that that will change the minds of the Iranians towards their nuclear program.
“But there is nothing casual about Iran having a nuclear weapon,” Romney added. “There's nothing casual about Iran having fissile material they can give to Hamas or Hezbollah.
“The president needs to recognize this is a very serious threat to America and to the world,” Romney said. “And that, of course, we have to have military options. Israel has obviously developed those options. I hope our president is listening to our military and developing those options as well.”