Mitt Romney does not like the new accelerated timetable for ending combat in Afghanistan. But he’s about to find that there’s nothing he can do about it.

He announced that so the Taliban hears it, the Pakistanis hear it, the Afghan leaders hear it,” Romney says. “Why in the world do you go to the people that you are fighting with and tell them the day you are pulling out your troops? It makes absolutely no sense.”

First off: what terrible staff work! “The Afghan leaders hear it”? They asked for it. Does no one at the Romney campaign know how to Google?

More importantly: it’s not just Obama that’s announcing the accelerated schedule. It’s NATO. NATO wants this war wrapped up. The alliance will provide substance for how it concludes its combat mission by 2013 at the May summit in Chicago. That means all 28 heads of state and government are going to sign on to a plan to turn the Afghanistan war over to the Afghans next year. (Not that they’re actually going to leave, entirely, which is a big asterisk.) Right in time for people to start paying attention to a presidential election.

And what’s Romney going to do? Say that as president, he’s going to convince NATO — and Karzai! — not to hew to a 2013 (or 2014!) timetable for ending combat? That he’d keep the U.S. fighting in Afghanistan beyond that point? How’s he going to sell that in Brussels and the NATO capitols? How’s he gonna sell that in Kabul? How’s he gonna sell that in Kansas?

Remember, a major part of Romney’s foreign policy critique of Obama is that Obama callously mistreats and neglects U.S. allies. The allies, however, want the 2013 timetable. Romney surely had to bash the change in the timetable; that’s all in the game. But Mitt doesn’t seem to have thought through the angles here. Or, alternatively, he’s banking on Obama to bail President Romney out of the Afghanistan war while posturing as an opponent of the incumbent’s policy — much as Obama banked on President Bush to bail him out of the Iraq war with the SOFA accord while doing the same.

Photo: Flickr (CC)/Gage Skidmore