VP debate excerpts – Vice President Joe Biden on Afghanistan

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Excerpts from Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks on the 2014 U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan at the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11, 2012: 

Let’s keep our eye on the ball. The reason — I’ve been in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq 20 times. I’ve been up in the Konar (ph) Valley. I’ve been throughout that whole country, mostly in a helicopter, and sometimes in a vehicle.

The fact is, we went there for one reason: to get those people who killed Americans, Al Qaida. We’ve decimated Al Qaida central. We have eliminated Osama bin Laden. That was our purpose.

And, in fact, in the meantime, what we said we would do, we would help train the Afghan military. It’s their responsibility to take over their own security. That’s why with 49 of our allies in Afghanistan, we’ve agreed on a gradual drawdown so we’re out of there by the year 20 — in the year 2014.

My friend and the governor say it’s based on conditions, which means it depends. It does not depend for us. It is the responsibility of the Afghans to take care of their own security. We have trained over 315,000, mostly without incident. There have been more than two dozen cases of green-on-blue where Americans have been killed. If we do not — if the measures the military has taken do not take hold, we will not go on joint patrols. We will not train in the field. We’ll only train in the — in the Army bases that exist there.

But we are leaving. We are leaving in 2014. Period. And in the process, we’re going to be saving over the next 10 years another $800 billion. We’ve been in this war for over a decade. The primary objective is almost completed. Now, all we’re doing is putting the Kabul government in a position to be able to maintain their own security.

It’s their responsibility, not America’s.

MARTHA RADDATZ: We have — we have soldiers and Marines. We have Afghan forces murdering our forces over there. The Taliban is, do you think, taking advantage of this timeline?

JOE BIDEN: Look, the Taliban — what we’ve found out, and we — you saw it in Iraq, Martha, unless you set a timeline, Baghdad, in the case of Iraq, and — and Kabul, in the case of Afghanistan will not step up. They’re happy to let us continue to do the job; international security forces to do the job.

The only way they step up is to say, “Fellas, we’re leaving; we’ve trained you; step up, step up.”

RADDATZ: Let me go back.

BIDEN: That’s the only way it works.

RADDATZ: Let me go back to the — the surge troops that we put in there. And — and you brought this up, Congressman Ryan. I have talked to a lot of troops. I’ve talked to senior offices who were concerned that the surge troops were pulled out during the fighting season, and some of them saw that as a political — as a political move. So can you tell me, Vice President Biden, what was the military reason for bringing those surge troops home…

BIDEN: The military reason…

RADDATZ: … before the fighting had ended?

BIDEN: … was bringing — by the way, when the president announced the surge, you’ll remember, Martha, he said the surge will be out by the end of the summer. The military said the surge will be out. Nothing political about this.

Before the surge occurred — so you be a little straight with me here, too — before the surge occurred, we said they’ll be out by the end of the summer. That’s what the military said. The reason for that is…

RADDATZ: The military follows orders. I mean, there — trust me. There are people who were concerned about pulling out on the fighting season.

BIDEN: Sure. There are people that are concerned, but not the Joint Chiefs. That was their recommendation in the Oval Office to the president of the United States of America. I sat there. I’m sure you’ll find someone who disagrees with the Pentagon. I’m positive you’ll find that within the military. But that’s not the case here.

And, secondly, the reason why the military said that is, you cannot wait and have a cliff. It takes — you know — months and months and months to draw down forces.



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