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Pawlenty: Romney 'pleased' Obama visited Afghanistan

"Gov. Romney said he's pleased that the president has made this trip, and I think for the president and commander in chief to visit troops, to give them a boost, to give them encouragement, to remember and to speak to their sacrifices — [it's] fully appropriate," Pawlenty said Wednesday on CNN's "Starting Point."

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Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor and a former 2012 presidential contender, said "the only real difference" Romney had with the president's approach was announcing a public timetable for troop withdrawal from the country.

"Gov. Romney's approach, which is … making sure those objectives are successful and America's goals are met rather than just putting arbitrary deadlines, in other words conditions on the ground governing our plans, not arbitrary deadlines on the calendar," Pawlenty said.

He said the expected outcomes include defeating al Qaeda, ensuring that insurgencies are not able to re-form and making sure Afghan security forces have the capacity to keep the country "reasonably stable."

Obama signed an agreement with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul that establishes a relationship between the United States and Afghanistan for 10 years after NATO troops transfer security control to the Afghans in 2014. However, officials did not comment Tuesday on how large the U.S. presence in Afghanistan would be after 2014, beyond saying any force that remains would be “dramatically reduced” from its current size.

During his speech televised speech from Bagram Air Base, Obama noted that 10,000 U.S. troops returned home from Afghanistan last year and another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee, on Tuesday criticized President Obama’s visit to Afghanistan as “clearly” campaign-related.

“Clearly, this trip is campaign-related,” Inhofe said in a statement. “We’ve seen recently that President Obama has visited college campuses in an attempt to win back the support of that age group since he has lost it over the last three years. Similarly, this trip to Afghanistan is an attempt to shore up his national-security credentials, because he has spent the past three years gutting our military.”

Pawlenty agreed with the Oklahoma senator's assessment of the military budget, but made clear that the Romney campaign was not criticizing the president's trip to Afghanistan.

"We have severe concerns about the direction that President Obama is heading our defense budget and security capabilities and he should be called to account for that … but we aren't criticizing him for going to Afghanistan and visiting the troops," he said.