Reaction to Obama's speech reveals GOP split over Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a televised address from the East Room of the White House on June 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C. Obama announced the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2011 and 33,000 more by the end of summer in 2012. Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images

Obama's Afghanistan Speech
Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images
President Obama's announcement tonight of a drawdown in U.S. surge forces from Afghanistan met with the dismissal and skepticism that one would expect from Republicans.

However, there is a split in the reaction: some Republicans are toting the hawkish line of following the wishes of the military and to continue to put forward a strong national defense. Others suggest the war should be ended sooner to save the hundreds of billions of dollars the government spends in Afghanistan yearly.

Even the candidates running to replace President Obama are somewhat split. They are all trying to appeal to GOP voters who oppose the president, but also to the many Americans who oppose the continued war effort in Afghanistan as well as those who want government spending reduced at all costs. The reactions of three of the leading Republicans show a wide range in the reaction among the president's opponents.

The newest member of the Republican candidates club, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, was quick to dismiss the president's action as not enough in light of mounting costs and growing debt.

"With America mired in three expensive conflicts, we have a generational opportunity to reset our position in the world in a way that makes sense for our security as well as our budget," wrote Huntsman. "Now it is time we move to a focused counter-terror effort which requires significantly fewer boots on the ground than the President discussed tonight. We need a safe but rapid withdrawal which encourages Afghans to assume responsibility, while leaving in place a strong counter intelligence and special forces effort proportionate to the threat."

Obama: This is beginning of the end of the Afghanistan war
Transcript of President Obama's remarks
CBSNews.com Special Report: Afghanistan

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney put the onus of approval on the military, but noted that political and fiscal issues should not be factors in a decision about troop deployments.

"We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we shouldn't adhere to an arbitrary timetable on the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. This decision should not be based on politics or economics. America's brave men and women in uniform have fought to achieve significant progress in Afghanistan, some having paid the ultimate price. I look forward to hearing the testimony of our military commanders in the days ahead," he said.

But Tim Pawlenty, another Republican candidate and former governor of Minnesota, said the president's decision shows a defeatist attitude, abandoning the goal of victory and ignoring the will of the war's top General, David Petraeus.

"I thought his speech was deeply concerning," said Pawlenty on Fox News. "Look how he phrased the outcome of this war. He said we need to end the war, quote unquote, responsibly. When America goes to war, America needs to win. We need to close out the war successfully, and what that means now is not nation-building. What it means is to follow General Petraeus's advice and to get those security forces built up where they can pick up the slack as we draw down," he said in reaction to the Mr. Obama remarks.

Video: Obama's full speech on Afghanistan

Some congressional Republicans took a hard line against the draw down.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote a statement via twitter: "We've undercut a strategy that was working."

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan, followed suit with what is now typical response from Republicans to Mr. Obama's foreign policy decisions, suggesting the president puts politics ahead of security. "I am concerned about the President's plan to begin troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. We are in a very precarious place in Afghanistan right now. It seems the President is trying to find a political solution with a military component to it, when it needs to be the other way around," wrote Rogers.

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Freshmen Senator Marco Rubio hit at both issues. He suggested the war be ended, but pushed the White House to prove that the drawdown strategy will accomplish the vital national security goal of the war effort.

"After a decade of fighting, the American people are weary of war. Facing massive unemployment and a growing national debt, they are weary of the effort's cost. So am I. But the answer to a bad situation is not to make it worse. And I have always believed that a troop withdrawal plan based not on progress towards our ultimate goal, but rather on a desire to hit certain numbers, would be a tragic mistake," wrote Rubio, a Tea Party backed Republican from Florida.

"Yes, American troops need to leave Afghanistan, but they should do so pursuant to a plan that accomplishes our vital goal. I hope that in the days to come, the President will more clearly articulate how his troop withdrawal plan does that," he added.

  • Robert Hendin On Twitter»

    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.

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