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Huntsman: Streamline military, bring troops home from Afghanistan

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) laid out his foreign policy agenda Monday, which centered around fixing the American economy, streamlining the military and adopting a tougher stance against Iran and Pakistan.

Huntsman, a former ambassador to China under the Obama administration, stressed that the first priority of his foreign policy approach was fixing the economy.

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"It will require serious, bold reforms to our tax and regulatory systems — reforms that I have offered as part of a plan that one economist calls the most pro-growth proposal ever offered by a presidential candidate," Huntsman said. "Our nation's core is weak, our people are hurting and America cannot project power abroad when we are weak at home."

"Our interests are best served when America leads. But to lead abroad, we must regain strength at home," Huntsman continued. "Returning people to work, reducing our debt, restoring confidence in our future. Fixing America first, that will be my first priority."

Huntsman repeatedly called for a reduced military presence in Afghanistan while also modifying the U.S. armed forces to better combat terrorism.

"After 6,000 lives lost and more than $1 trillion spent, it is time to bring our brave troops home," he said. 

"We could go from 100,000 boots on the ground to a much smaller footprint in a year, while leaving behind an adequate number of counterterrorist and intelligence functions and a facile special forces presence."

On Iran and Pakistan, Huntsman adopted a hawkish stance, saying he would consider using force to prevent a nuclear-capable Iran and calling for a reassessment of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.

"I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. If you want an example of when I would consider the use of American force, it would be that," Huntsman said.

Huntsman said "certain realities" with Pakistan had to be recognized. "This is not a relationship based on shared valued," he said. "It is transactional at best."

The former governor instead called for a stronger relationship with India, through encouraging trade agreements. He said those stronger ties would also help U.S. counterterrorism interests through better intelligence gathering.

"I think a stronger relationship with India would allow us to gain that understanding," Huntsman said in response to a post-speech question.

Huntsman’s foreign policy would rely on a streamlined American military better equipped for counterterrorism than Cold War-era conflicts.

"We still have remnants of a top-heavy, post-Cold War infrastructure. It needs to be transformed to reflect the 21st Century world, and the growing asymmetric threats we face," Huntsman said. 

"For example, counterterrorism needs to be a much larger part of our foreign policy. We must be prepared to respond to threats — from Al Qaeda and other terrorist cells — that emanate from a much more diverse geography, including Yemen, the Horn of Africa, Pakistan and the Asia-Pacific," he noted.

In his speech, Huntsman also took a jab at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's foreign policy proposals, which the GOP front-runner unveiled on Friday. Romney's called for an expansion of troops, weaponry and warships through increased military spending.

"We will establish a foreign policy doctrine that reflects our modern world," Huntsman said. "Simply advocating more ships, more troops, and more weapons is not a viable path forward," Huntsman said. "We need more agility, more intelligence, and more economic engagement with the world."

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On Israel, Huntsman called for a “no daylight” approach toward maintaining its security. In questions after the speech, Huntsman said the U.S. should go back to some of the progress made on Israeli-Palestinian relations during the Camp David accord.

"This includes standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel as they manage a host of new challenges brought on by the Arab Spring, along with more familiar challenges, such as a hostile Iran, which will continue to be a transcendent challenge of the next decade," Huntsman said.

Huntsman also joined in calls by Republicans for lawmakers to pass a series of trade agreements. The agreements are expected to pass both the House and the Senate this week.

"It starts with passing the three pending trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, which President Obama has resisted for three years, and which could boost American exports by more than $10 billion and create tens of thousands of American jobs," Huntsman said.