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DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock, File, Associated Press
FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2011 file Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System photo, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. A U.S. official on Thursday, March 22, 2012 said Bales will be charged with 17 counts of murder in the massacre of Afghan villagers.

WASHINGTON — As Afghanistan grabs more of the political spotlight, the Republican presidential candidates are quick to criticize President Barack Obama's handling of the war. But they're struggling to explain how they would change the strategy they would inherit.

GOP front-runner Mitt Romney says Obama has exhibited "failed leadership" and should not have set a timetable for ending the war. But Romney won't say whether he would scrap the president's plans to bring the war to a close by the end of 2014.

Rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have questioned whether the U.S. should be in Afghanistan at all, but neither has plans for withdrawing tens of thousands of American troops.

There may be concerns that detailed campaign promises could pigeonhole a candidate if he wins the White House.