Last night, Vice President Joe Biden managed, on Afghanistan at least, to sound like a peacenik. Not so, Ryan.
Listen to Biden:
[W]e 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.
Not bad. Of course, neither Biden nor Ryan dealt with the complexity of the war, with the likelihood that the insurgency will continue past 2014, with Pakistan’s infernal meddling, or with the vast, unfathomable corruption of the government of President Karzai. But give Biden credit for stating unequivocally that in 2014, we’re gone.
Ryan, on the other hand, was all over the place. He said he’ll listen to the generals and give them what they want, he said he’s “skeptical” about talking with the Taliban (Romney, of course, is flatly against negotiations with the Taliban), and he seemed to support the idea of making the withdrawal of US and NATO forces contingent on “conditions” on the ground. He said:
What we don’t want to do is lose the gains we’ve gotten. Now, we’ve disagreed from time to time on a few issues. We would have more likely taken into accounts the recommendations from our commanders, General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen, on troop levels throughout this year’s fighting season. We’ve been skeptical about negotiations with the Taliban, especially while they’re shooting at us.
But we want to see the 2014 transition be successful, 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.
As Biden countered:
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.