Romney to mother of Army daughter: How can Obama sleep at night?

Gerald Herbert/AP

DAYTON, Ohio – A woman at a rally here tearfully asked Mitt Romney on Saturday why her Army daughter is still in Afghanistan nearly a year after the death of Osama bin Laden. He seized on her question to accuse President Obama of failing to clearly communicate the mission to U.S. troops serving there.

Vicki Chura, 54, of Fairfield, Ohio, said her daughter calls home constantly from Bagram Air Base, where she serves with the 82nd Airborne Division, and is confused about why she is still there. She asked Romney what he would do to speed the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"Her first deployment, she never once said ‘I want to come home,’" Chura said of her daughter, who has been in the Army for more than three years. "This deployment has been extremely hard, not only for her, but for my husband and I.  Every email, every time we Skype, we hear ‘I want to come home now’. There is no mission here. We have no definition of a mission."

Romney jumped on Chura’s complaint and attacked Obama on the war. “If your daughter is not familiar with the mission that she's on, how in the world can the commander in chief sleep at night, knowing that we have soldiers in harm’s way that don't know exactly, precisely, what it is that they're doing there?" he asked.

The former Massachusetts governor said he found the president's failure to make the mission clear one of the "most disturbing and hard to explain" elements of Obama's tenure. Though American troops may have a hard time finding clarity in their mission, Romney said, he fully understood its purpose to be helping Afghani forces to achieve sovereignty and security. However, he continued, "We will not, we will not be able to hand on a silver platter their freedom. They will have to fight for that, earn it, keep the Taliban from taking it away from them. But we've given them that opportunity. We need to finish the job of passing it off to them, and bring our troops home as soon as humanly possible."

Romney has criticized Obama for announcing a withdrawal schedule and for the pace of the withdrawal. Some 10,000 U.S. troops left Aghanistan in 2011 and another 23,000 are scheduled to withdraw by this summer, leaving 68,000. The plan is for Afghan forces to be entirely in charge of security by 2014. Polls show most Americans want the war to end.

Chura said she hasn’t decided yet whether to vote for Romney or former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary. She said Romney's lack of foreign policy experience will not be a factor because she trusts he will have a strong advisory team. Nor did Romney’s answer to her question disqualify him. She said her maternal instincts led her to hope he might say he would bring her daughter home immediately, but "he showed determination and backbone" by not overpromising.

Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said that the under Obama's leadership, "we are decimating al-Qaeda" and the Afghans are preparing to take over their own security. She said Romney "has failed to outline any plan at all for what he would do in Afghanistan and has even made clear that he would leave our troops there indefinitely."

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