Romney says U.S. should not negotiate with Taliban

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina Mon Jan 16, 2012 11:39pm EST

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is seen on a giant TV screen in a Republican presidential candidates debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina,  January 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is seen on a giant TV screen in a Republican presidential candidates debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, January 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (Reuters) - Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney said on Monday the United States should not negotiate with the Taliban and he criticized the Obama administration for efforts to broker secret talks with the Afghan insurgents.

Romney, who has won the first two Republican contests in the race to pick a nominee to face Democratic President Barack Obama in November, strongly rejected any sort of talks with the Taliban.

"The right course for America is not to negotiate with the Taliban while the Taliban are killing our soldiers," Romney said during a debate of the five Republican presidential hopefuls ahead of Saturday's South Carolina primary. "The right course is to recognize that they are the enemy of the United States."

Romney said Obama had put the United States in a position of "extraordinary weakness" because he had made a decision based on a political calendar on when to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and because he has even publicly announced the date when the United States would completely withdraw from the country.

"We don't negotiate from a position of weakness as we are pulling our troops out," Romney said. "We should not negotiate with the Taliban. We should defeat the Taliban."

Senior U.S. officials told Reuters last month that the United States had been involved in 10 months of secret dialogue with the Taliban. Officials had said the talks had reached a critical juncture and a Taliban prisoner transfer was possible from the Guantanamo Bay military prison into Afghan government custody.

U.S. officials had said a transfer of prisoners could be one confidence-building measure critical to making progress on a peace deal between the Taliban and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

But Romney said those negotiations sent the wrong message to the people of Afghanistan.

"Think what it says to the people of Afghanistan ... if they see us, their ally, turning and negotiating with the very people they are going to have to protect their nation from."

If Romney wins the Republican nomination, he will face Obama on Election Day November 6. Obama's record on foreign policy and national security is likely to be one of his strengths, however, because he can point to the killing last year of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as one of his victories.

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Comments (5)
fromthecenter wrote:
His way would be what? stay there for another 20 years? This is the only way out of that hell hole. Gordon Gekko acting like a neo-con is just a little to much for me to bear.

Jan 17, 2012 4:01am EST  --  Report as abuse
abkisa wrote:
Obama and Clinton are not idiots… anything but. He and H. Clinton are on the same page when it comes to international affairs.The world has moved beyond tough talk and stick waving. Diplomacy and international co-operation are the new way to achieve goals and maintain peace. Look at some of the changes the U.S. has helped bring about and the challenges we’ve met as a nation in the last two years.

Jan 17, 2012 8:57am EST  --  Report as abuse
BiteRight wrote:
Romney is a rookie in diplomacy although he may be a veteran in U.S. domestic politics. Didn’t he see the post-Soviet Afghan government was easily toppled by Taliban after Russians gone ? Taliban is a rebel force that cannot ignored in post-U.S. Afghanistan.

In order not to follow suit to Soviet evacuation in 1988, some form of dialogue must be maintained with Taliban for accomodation in Afghan politics. Fortunately the Taliban is currently also at odds with Pakistan which is engaged to hunt them down in northwest. For Taliban to fight two wars against two governments, that would much lessen pressure on U.S. at least for now.

Jan 17, 2012 9:35am EST  --  Report as abuse
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