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Obama’s shift on Afghanistan ‘the right decision,’ Clinton says

The Boston Globe’s James Pindell sits down with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as part of Ground Game.
The Boston Globe's James Pindell sits down with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as part of Ground Game.

KEENE, N.H. — Hillary Clinton on Friday embraced President Obama’s controversial decision to halt the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, a move that followed her efforts in recent weeks to distance herself from the administration.

Obama’s announcement Thursday to keep at least 5,500 troops in Afghanistan into 2017 prolongs the nation’s longest war and nearly ensures he will break a campaign promise to remove all American forces there before he leaves office.

“I think it is the right decision,” Clinton, a Democratic candidate for president, said in an interview with the Globe.

“And I admire the fact that the president has very strong positions about trying to end wars and bring people home — which is exactly the right place to be in — but is not so doctrinaire, absolutist that no matter what the circumstances are that he’s going to stick to his position,” Clinton said. “You have a position of responsibility and a real obligation to try to make the best decisions possible, and I know that’s what he did on this one.”

The president’s decision came after gains by the Taliban against the Afghan government. “Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be,” he said in explaining his decision.


Clinton, Obama’s former secretary of state, also said she would give the administration an overall grade of “A,” arguing that the president deserves more credit for preventing what she described as a second Great Depression early in his presidency.

Clinton’s comments Friday follow her high-profile disagreements with Obama on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline and trade deal with Asian countries, issues on which she has declared her opposition in recent days. She has also critiqued the president’s early efforts to crack down on immigration enforcement and suggested she would take a different tack.


Hillary Clinton comments on President Obama’s decision to halted the withdrawal of American military forces from Afghanistan.
Hillary Clinton comments on President Obama's decision to halted the withdrawal of American military forces from Afghanistan.

Next week Clinton is scheduled to appear before a special congressional committee looking into the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attack, in which four Americans were killed at the US consulate. Clinton was secretary of state at the time.

Asked what she wanted headlines to say the day after she testified, Clinton said she was not sure what to expect.

“We now know, unfortunately, that their real goal is political and partisan, so I don’t know what it is that they are trying to achieve,” Clinton said of the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi.

The panel led to the public disclosure that Clinton had used a private e-mail server in her home to conduct official business while serving as secretary of state. Asked Friday what safeguards she took to prevent that server from being hacked by the Chinese or Russians, Clinton said, “I can only tell you that there is no evidence that I ever was.”

Clinton spoke to the Globe at Keene State College after holding a town hall meeting there, her third visit to the city during her 11 trips to the Granite State. She held a similar town meeting event in Nashua later on Friday.

As she spoke, a new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll among likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters showed her statistically tied for the lead with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for the first time in months.

The turnaround followed Tuesday evening’s Democratic primary debate. The poll showed that 54 percent of likely Democratic voters in the state believed she won, compared with 24 percent who believed Sanders did.


Since the summer, Clinton has trailed Sanders in New Hampshire, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, all the while leading in every other state and in nationwide polls.

Clinton and her family have a rich political history in New Hampshire: She scored a dramatic victory in the 2008 presidential primary, and Bill Clinton’s strong showing in 1992 revived his campaign. Still, she said, she “never took it personally” that she had fallen behind Sanders here.

“I understand that polls go up and polls go down. I have a very clear mission in this campaign, which is to let the American people know what I would do as president to work hard to earn their votes, first in the primaries and caucuses and obviously in the general election if I am the nominee,” Clinton said. “I do care a lot about New Hampshire. It is a place that holds a lot of wonderful memories for me and my family, but my principal opponent on the Democratic side is next door and I understand that.”

Asked if she were a member of the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of the Democratic Party, Clinton demurred. But she praised Warren, the senior senator from Massachusetts, and described herself as she had during the debate, a “progressive who tries to get results.”

Meanwhile, as Vice President Joe Biden appears near a decision on whether he will run for president, Clinton did not take any warning shots toward him, even as some of her supporters have suggested that it is past time for Biden to make up his mind.


Clinton said she last met with the vice president two months ago and pledged they would remain friends no matter what he decided.

Should she be elected president, Clinton would be following two presidents who both came into office pledging that Washington could work in a bipartisan way. Clinton suggested this week that she would come into office ready for a fight. Asked during the debate which enemy made during her political career she was most proud of, Clinton said: “Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians — probably the Republicans.”

On Friday she said she would be willing to work with the opposing party.

“I was a little tongue in cheek when I said that in the debate because, you know, we are going to be in a very contested political campaign, and I am going to do everything I can to win,” she said.

James Pindell can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell, or subscribe to his daily e-mail update on the 2016 campaign at