By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 5:56 PM
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, setting himself apart from most other Republicans, said Wednesday he sees no obvious endgame to the war in Afghanistan and expressed grave doubts about how the United States extricates itself from a conflict that is now nearly a decade old.
"What's the endgame we're playing here?" he told reporters at a session hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "I can't see a conclusion."
Huckabee, who ran for president in 2008 and is contemplating another campaign in 2012, described Afghanistan as a political and economic basket case. The government of President Hamid Karzai is "incredibly and hopelessly corrupt," he said, adding that he doubted that would change.
Farmers, he said, have little incentive to grow anything other than poppies, which feed the heroin trade, because of poor conditions. "You go to Afghanistan and look around and ask, am I in a country or on the surface of the moon?"
Huckabee said many of the conditions that have made it possible for Iraq to begin to develop an economy and a democracy do not exist in Afghanistan, making it all the more difficult for U.S. policy to succeed there.
Asked what should be done, he expressed frustration. "The honest answer is I don't think any of us knows exactly," he said. "We are there. â?¦ I'm asking people to tell me what it is we do to say we're done."
Huckabee, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 2008, is one of the few Republicans to openly question the war in Afghanistan.