Jon Huntsman President 2012

National Security

After a decade of fighting and thousands of American lives lost, it is time to bring our brave troops home.


Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, the United States invaded Afghanistan to prevent Al-Qaeda terrorists from continuing to train freely and plot attacks against our country. Our brave men and women in the U.S. military and intelligence community can be proud of their accomplishments:  Al-Qaeda has been largely driven from Afghanistan, the Taliban has been removed from governing power, and Osama Bin Laden has been killed. Yet, our mission has evolved into an ill-advised counterinsurgency campaign which continues to carry heavy costs in terms of blood and treasure. 

Counterinsurgency strategies applied in Iraq have not been nearly as effective when tried in Afghanistan where conditions differ considerably. Remnants of the Taliban take refuge in the ungoverned spaces of northwest Pakistan.  The Pakistani intelligence services appear to be actively hedging bets by supporting terrorist activities that target Americans in Afghanistan. And our partner government in Kabul lacks the capacity and perhaps even the will to fight for their fledgling democracy.  It is unclear that any amount of time or resources committed to the conflict by the United States would render our efforts in Afghanistan effective.

Pakistan is an important country that we ignore at our own peril.  It is the sixth most populous country in the world, has the dangerous mix of a young median age and low GDP, has a demonstrated nuclear weapons capability, and has directly or indirectly been a sponsor of terrorist networks and proliferation activities.  If Pakistan is unstable, we will all be less secure.

Our relationship with Pakistan is purely transactional.  Going forward, our interests would be best served if Pakistan becomes a genuine partner in fighting terrorism, and contributes constructively to Afghanistan's future as a more stable multi-ethnic democracy.  For Pakistan to pursue that course, they need to understand Washington will not give blank checks.  Our assistance should be quid pro quo based on the decisions Pakistan makes.   This does not commit us to saving Pakistan – a job we are not fit for at this juncture in our history.  This does commit us to a course that gives us the best chance to keep America safe and allows us to focus on our priorities at home.

Jon Huntsman Priorities:

Exit Afghanistan: After a decade of fighting and thousands of American lives lost, it is time to bring our brave troops home.

Shift to counter-terrorism mission.  Our remaining presence should be committed to ensuring that Afghanistan will not be a base for Al-Qaeda and other potential terrorists who target the U.S. and our allies.  A counterterrorism strategy, involving small, nimble Special Forces and intelligence teams, would thwart efforts by terrorists to reestablish a presence in Afghanistan. At the same time, the United States should continue to train Afghan military and police forces and help build governmental capacity so that responsibility for the counterterrorism campaign can be turned over as quickly as reasonably possible to the Afghan government.

Only Pakistan can save Pakistan.  The Pakistanis must be made to understand a hard quid pro quo: future U.S. assistance will be tied to Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorists, curb proliferation, and the extent to which they contribute in constructive ways to Afghanistan’s future. 


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