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Ron Paul, the fourth man in the race, has been accused of extremist views on foreign policy. He has long argued against Washington's "militarism" and accused it of inventing foreign threats.
Room for Obama
The declining Republican support for the Afghan war works well for President Barack Obama, who has called for an end to the US combat role in Afghanistan by 2014.
Sections of the administration and the Democratic Party have been calling on the president to consider an earlier date in 2013, for pulling out the bulk of American troops from Afghanistan. Any Democratic president is concerned about potential accusations from the Republicans that he is weak on national security. With new Republican realism on Afghanistan, Obama has greater domestic room to reconsider his current strategy. Having got the head of Osama bin Ladin in a daring raid deep inside Pakistan last May, Obama's flanks on the right are now well covered.
After the death of 1,800 US soldiers and the expenditure of nearly half a trillion dollars in Afghanistan, it is rather difficult for any one in the United States to mobilise public enthusiasm for a war that appears to be going nowhere.
Nearly 60 per cent of Americans see the Afghan war as not worth the costs, according to a recent poll by the Washington Post and the American Broadcasting Corporation. For the last two years, a consistent majority of American public opinion has opposed the Afghan war. The new element, according to the poll, is that the Republicans are now evenly divided on whether the war was worth the blood and treasure.
The exit sign
Within the Obama administration, those seeking an early withdrawal are likely to gain the upper hand after the latest tragedy in Afghanistan.
The US military leadership has been pressing Obama to delay the troop reductions until the very end of 2014, so that pressure can be sustained against the Taliban.
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