Paul Ryan: 2014 is ‘good, reasonable timeline’ for drawdown in Afghanistan

Rep. Paul Ryan last week told a North Carolina TV station that he believes the 2014 date set by President Obama for a drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is a “good, reasonable timeline,” marking the first time that Ryan has publicly backed the drawdown date since becoming the presumptive GOP nominee earlier this month.

Last Monday, at a joint rally with Mitt Romney in Goffstown, N.H., Ryan responded to a question from a veteran on the war in Afghanistan by criticizing a different part of the current timetable.

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“A drawdown occurring in the middle of a fighting season — when we’re still giving our military that same mission — we don’t want to do something that would put them in jeopardy, we want them to fulfill the missions the safest way possible,’’ Ryan told the crowd at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire.

He addressed another part of the timetable in an interview with Raleigh ABC affiliate WTVD on Thursday after a defense roundtable in Fayetteville, N.C.

“We should be thinking of national security,” the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee said in response to a question about his views on the way forward in Afghanistan. “We should be thinking of troop security and safety first and foremost and not some political timetable, which I fear is how the president has made some of these decisions. We want to make sure that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for terrorists to plot future attacks against us.”

“At the same time, I think the timeline with Afghanistan on a 2014 date is a good, reasonable timeline,” he added.

Even as Ryan said he backs the 2014 date, he – along with presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney – has been sharply critical of a separate drawdown date of October 2012. That date marks the deadline set by Obama for the return of some 30,000 surge troops – a move that Republicans as well as some military advisers have argued becaause it is set to take place at the height of the fighting season.

Last Monday, at a joint rally with Romney in Goffstown, N.H., Ryan responded to a question from a veteran on the war in Afghanistan by echoing GOP criticism of the fall 2012 date, which he argued is based on Obama’s political considerations rather than on the advice of commanders on the ground.

“A drawdown occurring in the middle of a fighting season -- when we’re still giving our military that same mission -- we don’t want to do something that would put them in jeopardy, we want them to fulfill the missions the safest way possible,’’ Ryan told the crowd at St. Anselm College.

At the same New Hampshire rally where Ryan expressed opposition to the October date, Romney voiced support for the 2014 timeline, although he, too, accused Obama of making a politically-motivated decision. Romney also recently told Time Magazine that he backs the 2014 timeline but “would not have announced [the date] publicly.”

Ryan has had a relatively smooth transition to the national stage since Romney tapped him to serve as his running mate a little over two weeks ago, but he has had a few apparent stumbles on foreign issues.

At the Fayetteville defense roundtable he led before last Thursday’s interview, Ryan seemed to be caught off guard by an attendee’s question about a recent statement made by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on whether veterans hould speak out politically.

The previous day, Ryan fielded a question on Obama’s foreign policy in part by discussing the looming $500 billion across-the-board cuts to defense spending, an answer that highlighted his budgetary expertise.

 
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