During the GOP debate on foreign policy and national security, Wolf Blitzer claimed that the United States spends as much as $2 billion per week in Afghanistan and over $100 billion per year. Given this considerable investment and the even more devastating losses inherent to any war, many in Washington and across the nation are wondering whether the costs of Operation Enduring Freedom now outweigh the benefits.
Thus, the candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination were asked about their plans for the War in Afghanistan and their views of nation-building.
Here is what they said, according to the debate transcript provided by CNN:
* Jon Huntsman: "I think we need to square with the American people about what we've achieved. We need an honest conversation in this country about the sacrifices that have been made over nearly 10 years. We have -- we have dismantled the Taliban. We've run them out of Kabul. We've had free elections in 2004. We've killed Osama bin Laden. We've upended, dismantled al Qaeda. We have achieved some very important goals for the United States of America.
Now, the fact that we have 100,000 troops nation-building in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built, when, on the ground, we do need intelligence gathering, no doubt about that. We need a strong Special Forces presence. We need a drone presence. And we need some ongoing training of the Afghan National Army. But we haven't done a very good job defining and articulating what the end point is in Afghanistan. And I think the American people are getting very tired about where we find ourselves today."
* Mitt Romney: "We spent about $450 billion so far, 1,700 or so service men and women have lost their lives there, and many tens of thousands have been wounded. Our effort there is to keep Afghanistan from becoming a launching point for terror against the United States. We can't just write off a major part of the world … And that means we should have a gradual transition of handing off to the Afghan security forces the responsibility for their own country."
* Newt Gingrich: "You want to keep American troops in Afghanistan, you accept hot pursuit, you say no sanctuaries, you change the rules of engagement, you put the military in charge of the military side, you overhaul the State Department and AID so they get the job done, and you do it for real and you do it intensely, and you tell the Pakistanis, help us or get out of the way, but don't complain if we kill people you're not willing to go after on your territory where you have been protecting them."
* Ron Paul: "What I'm, sort of, tired of is all the money spent and lives lost worrying about the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan and forgetting about our borders between the United States and Mexico. We should think more about, you know, what we do at home."
* Herman Cain: "If we pull out of Afghanistan too soon, Iran is going to help to fulfill that power vacuum in Afghanistan. And so it is in our best interests, the United States of America, to prevent them from being able to help fill that power vacuum in Afghanistan."