Huntsman Questions Obama's Afghanistan Policy

By Bradley Klapper - June 13, 2011

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But asked specifically if he would take American troops out sooner than 2014, Huntsman hedged.

"My hunch is the American people want to be out of there as quickly as we can get it done," he said. But, he added: "You're going to have to leave behind some presence, probably not 100,000 or 120,000 troops, but some presence."

If Huntsman's comments failed to outline a stark contrast in foreign policy philosophy with Obama, they pointed to an essential challenge for his nascent campaign.

While he will try to frame his understanding of international affairs as a plus, he will need to distinguish himself from a president who is deeply disliked by some hardline Republicans. Huntsman's caution in analyzing Obama's Afghanistan withdrawal suggests the difficulty of the balancing act.

"I think foreign policy and national security experience will be in great demand in years to come," he said. "The citizens of this country are going to be very interested in a president who understands the world for what it is. It's complex, it's confusing, it is uncertain and it's not going to get any better in the years to come."

Huntsman said he would likely make the final decision on running for president in about 10 days. He said most of the boxes are checked: a supportive family, confidence in raising the necessary campaign funds, a strong presence in the early primary states of New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.

Huntsman isn't expected to run strongly in Iowa, because of his opposition to subsidies for corn-based ethanol.

He said he wasn't afraid to defend other positions on issues such as climate change and civil unions.

"Will some people hold that against me?" Huntsman asked. "It's OK. You got to be who you are and march forward. Some people will like it."

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© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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