In the Vice Presidential debates on Thursday, both candidates agreed on a 2014 timeline to withdraw from Afghanistan, although they argued over details and Congressman Paul Ryan hinted at keeping US troops there for longer.
“We agree with the administration on their 2014 transition,” said Paul Ryan, GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate. Despite this admission, though, he claimed the Obama administration is taking troops out too early.
“But we want to see the 2014 transition be successful,” Ryan added, “and that means we want to make sure our commanders have what they need to make sure that it is successful so that this does not once again become a launching pad for terrorists.”
Biden countered by saying the transition to Afghan rule has been measured, and in line with the recommendations of the nation’s top military commanders.
What Biden did not mention, and his opponent did not criticize, is the fact that this decade long war in Afghanistan has failed in every one of its stated missions: the Taliban are as strong as ever, the Afghan security forces are weak and infiltrated with insurgents who continue to kill NATO trainers, and the Kabul government is enfeebled and in danger of collapsing.
Ryan responded to Biden by reiterating, “We don’t want to extend beyond 2014,” but the that the pace administration’s withdrawal has been slightly faster than he would have preferred.
This distinction without a difference illustrated how indistinguishable the two major parties are on many a foreign policy issue. Both agreed that this failure of a war is worth two more years of occupation, and neither dared to admit or mention what a waste of blood and treasure it has been.
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