Does Carol Shea-Porter agree with President Obama's war strategy in Afghanistan?
Within hours of Obama's speech Tuesday night, the congresswoman's fellow Democrats, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Paul Hodes, weighed in with generally positive views of the president's policy. Republican Sen. Judd Gregg gave his opinion the day before.
Shea-Porter, however, gave little response. Asked yesterday for her views on the speech, Shea-Porter, through spokeswoman Jamie Radice, responded, "I have not heard anything to change my mind. However, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, I look forward to hearing from (Defense) Secretary (Robert) Gates and Admiral (Michael) Mullen tomorrow, and General (Stanley) McChrystal and Ambassador (Karl) Eikenberry next week."
State Republicans say it is hard to know what Shea-Porter believes.
Republican Party spokesman Ryan Williams accused Shea-Porter of flip-flopping, from supporting the war during her campaigns to opposing a buildup now.
"Either she's not telling the truth on her views in Afghanistan during the 2006 and 2008 campaigns or she's being intellectually dishonest today," Williams said.
National Republican Congressional Committeeman Tory Mazzola added, "It seems a bit strange that Carol Shea-Porter, who made her name as a candidate protesting the war, is now avoiding the issue altogether."
Historically, Shea-Porter has been a vocal protester against the Iraq war, talking frequently about the need to instead focus on Afghanistan.
"We need to re-deploy our forces from Iraq, and with our allies, refocus our efforts on the fight against these terrorist criminals in Afghanistan and neighboring countries," she says on her website.
She told the Portsmouth Herald in October 2008 that she would support a phased withdrawal from Iraq while putting more troops in Afghanistan.
But Shea-Porter told the Monitor in September that her concerns about the war multiplied after she visited Afghanistan in May. "I came back and said, 'We really need to do a deep analysis and reassessment of what our goals are, our markers for success, how we know when we reach this, what's our strategy,' " Shea-Porter said.
Shea-Porter portrayed Afghanistan as a deeply troubled country, with illiteracy, health problems, high childhood mortality and a drug-based economy. She said it would be difficult for the U.S. to pick up and leave because "they lack everything we'd expect a country to have if they're going to step forward on their own." Shea-Porter said generals told her nation building would be a "10- to 16-year project."
Shea-Porter called on European nations to help with aid. She said the U.S. needed to carefully analyze its mission, to determine if more troops are sent how they will accomplish that mission, and to figure out whether Americans have the "stomach and political will" to keep fighting as the U.S. economy struggles.
Radice yesterday referred to news stories from May, when Shea-Porter returned from Afghanistan. From those stories, it was unclear whether Shea-Porter would support a troop surge leading to eventual withdrawal, as Obama laid out. Shea-Porter told the Portsmouth Herald she did not want another Vietnam "where we do enough to keep it going but not do enough to win." She told the Union Leader that "to fix Afghanistan would require an effort that I don't see happening."
On Monday, before the speech, Shea-Porter told WGIR that "I have not been in agreement" with the decision to send 30,000 more troops. She worried about the deficit, the war's cost and the lack of international assistance. "We need a presence there, need to keep working to catch terrorists," she said, but added that regarding a buildup, "my inclination is no."