Tim Pawlenty: WikiLeaks should not change Afghanistan plans

Minnesota governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty called for 'strategic patience' in the Afghanistan war effort at a Monitor breakfast for reporters Monday.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) spoke to reporters at a Monitor Breakfast Monday. He called for patience on a pull-out date for US forces from Afghanistan.

On a morning when the news was filled with WikiLeaks documents highlighting problems with the US war in Afghanistan, Minnesota Governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty called for “strategic patience” in the war effort and rejected setting “an arbitrary or an inflexible deadline” for withdrawal of American forces.

Governor Pawlenty spoke at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with national political reporters. He had just returned from a Defense Department trip with four other governors to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The situation in Afghanistan and the region more broadly is extremely complex; it is extremely complicated, and the president and leadership of our country need to do a better job of explaining why it matters, what it is going to take, and how long it is going to take,” Pawlenty said.

President Obama has announced a plan to begin pulling US troops out of Afghanistan next summer. The administration has argued the plan will be tailored to conditions on the ground at the time.

Pawlenty characterized the plan more harshly, referring at one point to “this idea that we are going to set an arbitrary deadline or an inflexible deadline about when we are going to be there.”

He said that he could not see setting an "arbitrary deadline in Afghanistan. If you do you, see the effects of that immediately,” in terms of how allies in the region respond.

During his trip to Afghanistan, Pawlenty said, "You see signs of increasing challenge." But he argued that, “If we are serious about what this means about terrorism and we are serious about what it means in terms of the threat to the United States of America and our national security interests, then we need to be serious about seeing it through to the point where we are satisfied our objectives have been met.”

The call for patience and persistence comes in the face of what Pawlenty acknowledged is public concern about the war. A Gallup Poll conducted July 8-11 found 38 percent of Americans think it was a mistake for the US to send military forces to Afghanistan. Some 58 percent said it was not a mistake. The mistake level is largely unchanged since the fall of 2009, Gallup said.


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