By Ali Imran
WASHINGTON, Oct 12 : With the mission to effectively weaken al-Qaeda in Afghanistan “almost” complete, the American forces are set to definitely leave the country by 2014 in accordance with agreement with international allies, U.S. Vice President declared in a political debate ahead of next month’s election.
Appearing in a televised debate with his Republican rival Paul Ryan, the U.S. vice president made it clear that the pullback of the remaining American troops from Afghanistan in the next two years would not be linked to ground conditions in that country, still facing Taliban insurgency.
The two politicians locked horns on several world hotspots including Libya and Syria, as President Barack Obama’s Democrat backers and Republican Mitt Romney’s supporters keenly followed the vice presidential debate, about four weeks from November 6 election.
Biden, a political stalwart, strongly opposed 42-year-old Ryan, who implied that a Republican administration, emerging from November 6 election, might slow down the pace of the troop withdrawals over the next two years.
“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,” Biden said, in the only vice presidential debate of the 2012 election campaign, which was conducted by journalist Martha Raddatz of ABC News.
“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.”
Biden, a former seasoned lawmaker, was seen by the American media as a political attack dog , aggressively defending the Obama Administration’s foreign policy decisions. At several points Biden tried to laugh off his opponent in a dominating debate mode.
The Democrats have been facing criticism from their supporters for President Obama not coming down hard enough on his Republican contender Mitt Romney’s perceived political weaknesses in the first presidential debate. Biden’s slamming style on Thursday night sought to nullify that impression.
The vice president argued the case against Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s suggestion that – with the additional surge troops sent under President Obama already back home – the rest of the pullout from Afghanistan could be conditions-based.
“My friend (Ryan) and the governor (Romney) 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.”
“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,” he said of the incidents in which Afghan forces turn their guns on their American trainers.
On the other hand, Congressman Ryan advocated that the Republicans want to make sure that 2014 is successful but do not want the enemy they are fighting in Afghanistan take advantage of the situation by announcing a definitive pullout date.
“That’s why we want to make sure that we give our commanders what they say they need to make it successful. We don’t want to extend beyond 2014,” he said.
“We don’t want to broadcast to our enemies “put a date on your calendar, wait us out, and then come back.”
“We want to make sure…… we do agree with the timeline and the transition, but what we — what any administration will do in 2013 is assess the situation to see how best to complete this timeline. What we do not want to do is give our allies reason to trust us less and our enemies more — we don’t want to embolden our enemies to hold and wait out for us and then take over,” the lawmaker added.
But, citing the success of the pullout timeline in the case of Iraq, Biden said fixing a withdrawal date would make Afghanistan step up and assume full responsibility for security in their country.
“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.”