WASHINGTON, Oct 8: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who pledged on Monday to use America’s power to shape history, also said he would not follow the Obama plan for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
A Gallup poll, released on Monday, showed that Mr Romney has pulled even with President Obama since their first presidential debate, overcoming a narrow advantage Obama had held since early this year.
“President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions in Afghanistan is arguing for endless war,” Mr Romney told a campaign rally in Lexington, Virginia. “But the route to more war — and to potential attacks here at home — is a politically timed retreat.”
Mr Romney, who unveiled his foreign policy agenda at this rally at the Virginia Military Institute, claimed that President Obama’s plan abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11.
“I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders,” he said. Mr Romney promised to “pursue a real and successful transition” to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014, which might or might not include withdrawing all combat troops from Afghanistan as his rival, President Barack Obama plan.
Criticising Mr Obama’s Middle East policy, Mr Romney said it was the responsibility of the US president to “use America’s great power to shape history -- not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events.”
Ridiculing Mr Obama for hoping for a “safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States”, Mr Romney said: “Hope is not a strategy. We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds.”
Under President Obama the US “unfortunately” found itself leading from behind, but under him America would be using its influence “wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively”, Mr Romney said.
He also advocated a more aggressive policy in Syria, claiming that Iran was sending arms to President Bashar al-Assad because they knew his downfall would be a strategic defeat for them.
“We should be working no less vigorously with our international partners to support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran — rather than sitting on the sidelines,” he said.
Mr Romney spoke from a lectern decorated with US and military flags as a group of cadets, in white uniforms, sat on the front rows. Patriotic music played in the background and later Mr Romney participated in a roundtable with retired generals, which was closed to the press and public.
Mr Romney also used an attack on the US Consulate in Libya, which killed the American ambassador and three other diplomats, to support his plan to continue engaging suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
“The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of the same forces that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001,” he said.“This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the (Obama) administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long. No, as the administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Gallup poll reported on Monday that many in America see Mr Romney’s success in last week’s presidential debate with Mr Obama as the biggest debate victory in recorded history.
The debate also boosted Mr Romney’s rating. In the three days after the debate on Oct 3, Gallup found 47 per cent of registered voters supporting the president and 47 per cent backing his Republican rival.
In the three days before the Denver debate, Mr Obama held a 50-45 point advantage over Mr Romney.