Perry’s Muddled Stance On Afghanistan: Bring The Troops Home…But Not Now…And Maybe Leave 40,000

GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry took criticism from the hawkish Republican right when he said, at Monday night’s debate, “[I]t’s time to bring our young men and women home as soon, and obviously as safely, as we can.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin he was “disappointed” with Perry’s stance. Now, the Perry campaign deployed an adviser to speak to Rogin and clear things up, albeit still leaving questions.

The adviser told Rogin:

In the dynamic of a debate when you follow someone, you kind of play off of them, and what Gov. Perry wanted to do was to express a similar sentiment to Gov. Huntsman that he very much wants to bring the troops home, we all do, but he wasn’t saying, “I want to bring the troops home now.”

He went on:

Gov. Perry is not confident in the Obama policy, which seems to be driven largely by politics, and he’s not confident in the 100,000 troops number. He’d like to know if it’s possible at 40,000.

But asked what Perry’s target number would be — not just a hypothetical — the adviser was short on specifics: “We’re not in a position to answer that question, we’re not in those briefings.”

Speaking to Time Magazine this week, Perry was equally vague:

I think we need to try to move our men and women home as soon as we can. Not just in Afghanistan, but in Iraq as well. And we’ve got to continually reassess our objectives. We need to make strategic decisions based on consultation with our military leaders on the ground, rather than just some arbitrary political promises.

All the meandering aside, Perry’s Afghanistan war strategy sounds an awful lot like President Obama’s because of the focus on handing over responsibility to Afghan security forces. So too do Perry’s vague numbers sound like those Obama has instituted from the Oval Office.


Perry initially got the Bush foreign policy band back together again to get advice on international affairs, which led the the neocons to think that they may have had their man in the Texas governor. But now, the so-called “hawk internationalist” appears to be reading the tea-leaves and trying to distinguish himself from the rapacious hawkishness of most of the Republican field by declaring that he didn’t want to engage in “military adventurism.” He still seems to be trying to find a middle ground, but doing it with muddled policies.