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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ryan Dips Into Foreign Policy


GOFFSTOWN, N.H. - Since Representative Paul D. Ryan was named the vice-presidential nominee, his schedule has included briefings on foreign policy with a top aide to Mitt Romney, with the Republican Party sensitive to the charge that neither man on the ticket has extensive national security experience.

Mr. Ryan made his foreign policy debut as a national candidate on Monday, answering questions about Israel, the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon and the Afghanistan war.

At a town-hall-style event here, when a man asked the candidates what they would do “about this damn mess in Afghanistan'' Mr. Romney gave his views, then pointedly turned to his running mate. “Paul, please,'' he said.

Mr. Ryan's first words seemed to respond to doubts about his experience. “Sir, when you vote to send men and women to war, like Kelly and I did after 9/11, that's a vote you take very seriously, very solemnly,'' he said, ref erring to Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who was also present.

“I was in Helmand Province with the Marines in December,'' he said, offering praise for the American military. He echoed longstanding Republican criticism of President Obama's pledge to end America's combat mission in Afghanistan by 2014, zeroing in on a troop reduction this summer.

“A drawdown occurring in the middle of a fighting season when we're still giving our military that same mission, we don't want to do something that would put them in jeopardy, we want them to fulfill the missions the safest way possible,'' Mr. Ryan said.

Earlier, Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Obama for not speaking to Americans often enough about the war's progress.

“When our men and women are in harm's way, I expect the president of the United States to address the nation on a regular basis and explain what's happening and why they're there and what the mission is, what its progress is, how we'll know when it's completed,'' he said. “Other presidents have done this. We haven't heard this president do this.''

Mr. Obama, who has been criticized for not holding a formal news conference in more than two months, last made a major address about the war in May during a surprise visit to Afghanistan. On Monday, at a White House news briefing, he answered a question about recent killings of NATO forces by Afghan soldiers. He expressed “deep concern” and said he would talk to President Hamid Karzai.

The Obama campaign responded that Mr. Romney had refused to detail plans for winding down the war. “If he does have some secret plan, he owes it to our men and women in uniform to tell them,” Lis Smith, a campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The president has repeatedly outlined a specific plan for how we are going to bring our troops home responsibly and end the war by the end of 2014, including during a trip he made t o Afghanistan in May.”

On the subject of Iran, Mr. Ryan said, “We have to recognize that perhaps the greatest threat in the world today is an Iran with nuclear capability, nuclear weapons capability.'' He called it “an existential threat to Israel'' as well as “our own national security.''

The vice-presidential nominee also echoed positions on Israel that Mr. Romney had earlier staked out. Repeating a line he has used in the past, Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had “thrown Bibi Netanyahu under the bus” in negotiating with the Palestinians.

Mr. Ryan elaborated. “When President Obama made the 1967 borders the precondition for the beginning of negotiations, it undercut our ally,'' he said. “It made it harder for the peace process to move forward, and as a result we have no peace process.''

“We've both been there, we've traveled in this region, we've met with the leadership of Israel,'' Mr. Ryan emphasized.

In 2011, Mr. Obama called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict using the 1967 borders as a baseline “with mutually agreed land swaps.'' It chilled relations between the president and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, though both leaders have sought since then to mend fences.