Romney: U.S. troops reaching 'breaking point'

Evan Vucci/AP

KIRKWOOD, Mo. -- Because of President Obama's policies, U.S. troops are “stretched to the breaking point,” Mitt Romney said on Tuesday in criticizing Obama’s handling of the war in Afghanistan.

Appearing in this St. Louis suburb ahead of Missouri's Saturday caucuses, Romney said Obama’s plan for withdrawal from the country is too expedient and reveals too much information to the Taliban insurgents there. He also said it is wearing down U.S. forces that must go on multiple rotations as colleagues are pulled out of active duty. By contrast, Romney said that, as president, he would increase the military by 100,000 troops.

The former Massachusetts governor confined his remarks on Afghanistan to Obama and did not bring up Sunday’s massacre involving a soldier who is accused of leaving his base in a remote part of southern Afghanistan and shooting Afghan civilians. At least 16 people died, including nine children. Romney, in a rare show of agreement, has taken Obama’s side on the implications of that incident.

Romney also repeated concerns he has made about the declining size of both the Navy and Air Force. When he made similar remarks during a debate in South Carolina earlier this year, the fact-checking website PolitiFact labeled them “Pants on Fire,” the site’s lowest rating for accuracy.

During his speech, Romney also had harsh words for Obama’s handling of Iran. Responding to the president’s assertion on Monday that jitters about the prospect of a military conflict involving Iran -- something Obama said has been fueled by GOP presidential candidates' rhetoric -- were the biggest factor behind the recent jump in gasoline prices, Romney said Obama was misguided.

"Frankly, it's disappointing to have the president of the United States take a serious foreign-policy issue which is Iran, the state sponsor of terror in the world, becoming nuclear, and trying to turn that into saying we're somehow responsible for high gasoline prices in this country,” Romney said. “It's a real stretch even for a guy who's gotten pretty good at making excuses.”

Romney said that if the president was still looking for answers on gas prices, “I have some suggestions for him,” citing the administration’s moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, its refusal to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the denial of a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Energy experts have said that doing any of those things wouldn't have any immediate impact at the pump, but Romney said, “Those things affect gasoline prices, long term."

The Obama campaign issued a swift response, as spokeswoman Lis Smith accused Romney of showing “that he will say anything in the pursuit of political gain."

“Contrary to Mitt Romney's rhetoric today, President Obama has aggressively pursued an all-of-the-above energy strategy by approving hundreds of drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico and making millions of acres available for oil and gas development,” Smith said. “Today, domestic oil and gas production is at an eight-year high and our dependence on foreign oil has hit a 16-year low. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, would continue tax subsidies for oil and gas companies making near-record profits and has opposed fuel-economy standards that will save consumers thousands of dollars at the pump. These misguided policies would do nothing to reduce gas prices or create jobs."

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