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Fact check: Ryan, Biden tell partial story on Afghanistan

October 11, 2012|By David S. Cloud
  • Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan depart the stage following their debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky.
Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul… (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )

Vice President Joe Biden's assertion in the vice presidential debate that the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff supported the timetable for removing the so-called surge force from Afghanistan was accurate -- but not the complete story.

The Joint Chiefs publicly backed the Obama administration's withdrawal plan, but not everyone in uniform agreed with it.

Gen. David Petraeus, who was in command in Afghanistan until he was appointed CIA director last year, told lawmakers he favored keeping more of the 30,000 surge troops in Afghanistan until the end of this year -- not bringing them all out by last month, as the White House ordered.

DEBATE QUIZ: Who said it?

Petraeus argued that keeping more U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2012 would help lock in security gains and enable commanders to shift more troops to eastern Afghanistan, where the insurgency remains strong.

Others at the Pentagon shared Petraeus' view that the White House was removing the reinforcements too quickly.

But President Obama insisted that the reinforcements he ordered to Afghanistan in 2009 would be home in 24 months, before this year's presidential election. His argument: The Pentagon said they needed the troops for no more than two years, and he was not going to let them extend the deployment.

Both Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan danced around the issue of when all of the remaining 60,000 U.S. troops would withdraw from Afghanistan.

"We are leaving. We are leaving in 2014. Period," Biden insisted.

But the White House is still debating whether a residual U.S. force should remain in Afghanistan after 2014 to continue training and advising the Afghan army and police.

TRANSCRIPT: Read Biden, Ryan’s arguments

For his part, Ryan said he and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney agreed with the 2014 timetable, sidestepping whether they will also keep some troops in Afghanistan beyond that date.

Ryan also implied that a Romney administration might slow the pace of the other troop withdrawals over the next two years compared to the Obama administration's plans.

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