(RENO, Nev.) — Mitt Romney Tuesday renewed his call for American troops in Afghanistan to return to the United States by the end of 2014 during a speech in Reno, Nev. The Republican presidential nominee remarked on the withdrawal as he delivered a speech that paid tribute to the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.
“While the war in Iraq is over, nearly 70,000 American troops will still remain in Afghanistan at the end of the month,” said Romney, who spoke to the National Guard Association Conference. “Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. We should evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders.”
Romney’s statements about troops in Afghanistan came after criticism of the candidate for not mentioning them specifically during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
Noting that the 9/11 anniversary is not an appropriate day to talk about the differences between his and President Obama’s “plans for military and for our national security,” Romney did make veiled references to former criticisms he’s had of President Obama’s handling of foreign policy, namely that he believes the president should have had more open communication with troops and the American public about the mission of our troops stationed overseas.
“We can all agree that our men and women in the field deserve a clear mission, that they deserve the resources and resolute leadership they need to complete that mission, and that they deserve a country that will provide for their needs when they come home,” said Romney, who never mentioned the president by name in his speech.
“Of course, the return of our troops cannot and must not be used as an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts. It is true that our armed forces have been stretched to the brink — and that is all the more reason to repair and rebuild,” said Romney. “We can always find places to end waste.”
Romney said that Sept. 11 was a “day to express gratitude” to those who have fought and are still fighting, specifically thanking the SEAL team “who delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.”
Romney’s campaign, like Obama’s, suspended political ads for the day, and the bulk of Romney’s speech in Reno Tuesday was dedicated to remembering the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Romney recalled his own experience that day, telling the crowd of hundreds of guardsmen and women that he had been in Washington, D.C. for Olympic committee meetings when he heard the first tower was struck.
“These, then, were purposeful acts, these were terrorist acts, these were evil and cowardly and heinous acts,” Romney said of his thoughts at the time.
Romney paid particular tribute to the Guardsman’s service in the U.S., specifically thanking them for their work following hurricanes in the U.S., and those who have fought in Afghanistan.
“Time and again, it has been the Guardsman’s hand that has lifted a child from rising waters, that has rescued a family from a hurricane’s fury, and that has fed and clothed a fellow American whose home and possessions have been lost to nature’s devastation,” said Romney. “It is a Guardsman who took out Saddam Hussein’s tanks from his A-10, and who fought to secure the villages of Afghanistan. Thank you for that service.”
“As you know too well, our world is a dangerous place. And the attack on our homeland and citizens on September 11, 2001 reminds us that the mission of the Guard is ever more critical, and ever more deserving of our support and honor,” he said.
“More than a decade has now passed since that day of tragedy. But the visions and events are seared in the memory of every American,” he said. “We remember those who died. We marvel at the courage of those who stormed the cockpit when they became aware of the malevolent purpose of the hijackers. We hold up in prayer the families and friends who have lived in a shadow cast by grief. We draw strength from the selflessness of the first responders. And we renew our resolve to protect America from the designs of evil men.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Brian Stelter, CNN
Theodore Schleifer and Stephen Collinson, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN