In light of the recent Green-on-Blue attack in Nangarhar Province Afghanistan which claimed the lives of two Special Forces members and wounded several more, it may surprise you to know that both the President and the Democrats seeking their party’s nomination in the upcoming November elections all seem to be in rhetorical agreement.
The U.S. should leave Afghanistan after a negotiated peace (or one that looks like one) has been attained.
Since politics tends to be engaged on the differences between candidates and parties, this rare agreement between Republicans and Democrats may have something to do with the fact that the mainstream media gives it very little coverage.
At his recent State of the Union Address, the President restated his previous position that the war in Afghanistan has gone on too long saying, “Great nations do not fight endless wars.” He went on to describe the basic approach and goals his administration hopes to attain: “In Afghanistan, my administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban. As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop’s presence and focus on counterterrorism. And we will indeed focus on counterterrorism.”
This continued focus on counterterrorism is visible in this administration’s pivot towards the threat posed by Iran in Syria and the Gulf region.
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Surprisingly, the Biden campaign website does not specifically address what his plans for Afghanistan would be, but we do have previous statements that can be evaluated: In a recent dump of thousands of internal government documents dubbed the “Afghanistan Papers,” which were sought after and released by the Washington Post last year, former VP Biden was also seen as advocating a drawdown of U.S. troops and a focus on counterterrorism instead.
Senator Bernie Sanders
Though Senator Sanders voted to authorize the invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, he has been strongly against a continued effort there since 2008 when he voted against the Defense Authorization Act which set aside $69 billion in spending for operations in that country calling the war there “unwinnable.” He was also on record as opposed to a surge of 40,000 troops in 2009 and praised the drawn down by President Obama in 2011. Sanders is currently an advocate of a negotiated peace with the Taliban and of a minimal U.S. troop footprint in support of the Afghan government. He also calls for a significant humanitarian aid package to help rebuild Afghanistan.
Senator Liz Waren
Senator Warren also calls for a withdrawal of U.S. ground forces from Afghanistan and echos Senator Sanders on the need for economic aid and development to Afghanistan. As her campaign responded to a query from the Council on Foreign Relations last July: “redirecting just a small fraction of what we currently spend on military operations toward economic development, education, and infrastructure projects would be a better, more sustainable investment in Afghanistan’s future than our current state of endless war.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
The Mayor’s position sheds the call for foreign aid to Afghanistan but favors the withdrawal of ground troops in favor of Special Operations/Intelligence assets to prevent the country from ever becoming a safe haven for emerging terrorist threats or see a resurgence of AQ.
Mr. Yang favors the withdrawal of ground troops to a residual force and calls for continued U.S. involvement to prevent terrorist groups in the country from expanding and to protect the rights of women and female children. He advocated reliance on economic diversity and diplomacy to achieve these ends.
Deval Patrick, former governor
Gov. Patrick would also extract ground troops from Afghanistan but he doesn’t commit to a specific timeframe. He states that the withdrawal would come after consultation with State Department and Defense Department experts, but said that conditions would include guarantees of U.S. security and economic prosperity for the Afghan people.
Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City
Mayor Bloomberg calls for a non-combat residual intelligence/counterterrorism force in the country to aid the Afghan government. His negotiations with the Taliban would include other nations in the region who, he believes, will be crucial for any lasting peace to be achieved in the region.
Senator Amy Klobuchar
The Senator’s own campaign site does not say anything about her policy in Afghanistan but in a speech given to the Council on Foreign Relations in December of last year, she gave it bare mention as she covered Russia, Iran, China and even emerging cyber threats in greater detail. In the New York Times, Klobuchar did not say when or how troops would be recalled but that it would be a goal in her first term. She adopted a similar caveat as that used by Gov. Patrick, saying it would ultimately come down to the advice she receives from State and Defense Department experts.
Congresswoman Tulse Gabbard
Rep. Gabbard told the New York Times in a foreign policy questionnaire to candidates that “no American will be fighting in Afghanistan by the end of my first year in office,” without elaborating on whether any residual force would remain in place to assist the Afghan government in counterterrorism efforts.
Tom Steyer, Billionaire, and Democrat activist
Mr. Steyer has stated his commitment to withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in his first year in office. He hasn’t provided details on how he would go about negotiations or if any residual force should remain.