By Jim Kouri
U.S. military and White House officials vowed on Monday to uphold their commitment to the Afghan strategy of President Barack Obama, despite recent protests and attacks in that country prompted by the burning of religious material by U.S. soldiers.
The rioting and killings that have followed the accidental burning of Qurans by coalition personnel will not change the NATO strategy in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are fully committed to continuing operations aimed at turning over security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, Little said.
But GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Sunday blasted President Obama’s Afghanistan policies, especially his apology over the burning of Qurans by NATO troops.
“I think the president’s made some enormous errors in the conduct of our mission there,” Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and current front-runner in the GOP nomination race, said on Fox News Sunday.
Romney has repeatedly criticized the Obama administration on its Afghan policy, particularly its withdrawal plan which he said could potentially undermine the security gains the U.S. military achieved in the past years.
In his commentary for Front Page Magazine, Islamic terrorism expert Robert Spencer wrote: “Madness has overtaken Washington, and the world. Every day this past week has brought fresh reports of more people murdered in Afghanistan over the burning of some copies of the Qur’an at Bagram Airfield. In response, every day new apologies come from American officials. Barack Obama, Leon Panetta, the commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, General John Allen, and others have all issued abject apologies to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the “noble people of Afghanistan,” and everyone else in sight.”
Meanwhile, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, told reporters during his regular press briefing that Obama’s strategy to slowly withdraw troops while transferring security lead to Afghan forces “very much remains the right one and remains in place, and one that we will continue to implement.”
Noting the defeat of al-Qaeda “remains absolutely a national security priority,” Carney said recent upheavals related to the burning of religious material in Afghanistan will not affect the pace of the drawdown, which means pulling out the last combat troops by end of 2014, and transferring full security lead to the Afghans.
The statement was echoed by the Defense Department. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are fully committed to continuing operations aimed at turning over security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
It is important that the recent events not blind people to the progress being made in the country, Little said. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, in partnership with Afghan national security forces, is making progress in defeating al-Qaeda and its terrorist allies and denying them the ability to maintain a safe haven in Afghanistan, he added.
According to Robert Spencer, Secretary of State Clinton held a closed-door meeting with the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in order to discuss strategies for enforcing Sharia restrictions on free speech regarding Islam in Western countries.
And Attorney General Eric Holder — the most radical head of the Justice Department in U.S. history — has gone to court more than once to compel American businesses and educational institutions to change the way they operate in order to accommodate particularities of Islamic law and practice.