Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Sunday brushed off Mitt Romney’s criticism of Obama administration policy on Afghanistan, dismissing it as “campaign rhetoric.”
Here’s the exchange between Panetta and Jake Tapper on ABC’s “This Week.”
JAKE TAPPER: Mitt Romney’s had this to say about the president’s Afghan strategy and the date certain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You just scratch your head and say how can you be so misguided? And so naïve? His secretary of defense said that on a date certain, the middle of 2013, we’re going to pull out our combat troops from Afghanistan. Why in the world do you go to the people that you’re fighting with and tell them the day you’re pulling out your troops?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, first of all, there’s a factual error that Mr. Romney made that I’m sure you want to correct, but the larger point about giving a date certain for the withdrawal or the end of the combat mission, could you address that as well after you correct him?
PANETTA: Well, Okay. You know, I think without getting into the campaign rhetoric of what he’s asserting, I think you’ve got 50 nations in NATO that agree to a plan in Afghanistan. It’s the Lisbon agreement, an agreement that, you know, others, President Bush, President Obama, everyone has agreed is the direction that we go in in Afghanistan.
What is that direction? It’s to take us to a point where we draw down by the end of 2014.
That is the plan that has been agreed to. And it’s a plan that is working.
And very frankly, the only way to get this accomplished in terms of the transition that we have to go through is to be able to set the kind of timelines that have been set here in order to ensure that we fulfill the mission of an Afghanistan that governs and secures itself. That’s what this is about.