Vice Presidential Debate Transcript

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RYAN: Do you know why we say that?

BIDEN: I'd like to know...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Because 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...

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: But you agree with the timeline.

RYAN: We do agree -- 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...

BIDEN: We will leave in 2014.

RYAN: ... what we don't 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...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: Martha, that's a bizarre statement.

RYAN: That's why we want to make sure -- no, that's why we want to make sure that...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: Forty-nine of our allies -- hear me -- 49 of our allies signed on to this position.

RYAN: And we're reading that they want to...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: Forty-nine -- 49 of our allies said "out in 2014." It's the responsibility of the Afghans. We have other responsibilities... (CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: Do you really think that this timeline...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Which is -- which is...

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: We have -- we have soldiers and Marines. We have Afghan forces murdering our forces over there. The Taliban is, do you think, taking advantage of this timeline?

BIDEN: Look, the Taliban -- 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."

RADDATZ: Let me go back.

BIDEN: That's the only way it works.

RADDATZ: Let me go back to the -- the surge troops that we put in there. And -- and you brought this up, Congressman Ryan. I have talked to a lot of troops. I've talked to senior offices who were concerned that the surge troops were pulled out during the fighting season, and some of them saw that as a political -- as a political move. So can you tell me, Vice President Biden, what was the military reason for bringing those surge troops home...

BIDEN: The military reason...

RADDATZ: ... before the fighting had ended?

BIDEN: ... was bringing -- by the way, when the president announced the surge, you'll remember, Martha, he said the surge will be out by the end of the summer. The military said the surge will be out. Nothing political about this.

Before the surge occurred -- so you be a little straight with me here, too -- before the surge occurred, we said they'll be out by the end of the summer. That's what the military said. The reason for that is...

RADDATZ: The military follows orders. I mean, there -- trust me. There are people who were concerned about pulling out on the fighting season.

BIDEN: Sure. There are people that are concerned, but not the Joint Chiefs. That was their recommendation in the Oval Office to the president of the United States of America. I sat there. I'm sure you'll find someone who disagrees with the Pentagon. I'm positive you'll find that within the military. But that's not the case here.

And, secondly, the reason why the military said that is, you cannot wait and have a cliff. It takes -- you know -- months and months and months to draw down forces.

RYAN: Let me...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Let me try and illustrate the issue here, because I think this -- it can get a little confusing. We've all met with General Allen and General Scaparrotti in Afghanistan to talk about fighting seasons.

Here's the way it works. The mountain passes fill in with snow. The Taliban and the terrorists and the Haqqani and the Quetta Shura come over from Pakistan to fight our men and women. When it fills in with snow, they can't do it. That's what we call fighting seasons. In the warm months, fighting gets really high. In the winter, it goes down.

And so when Admiral Mullen and General Petraeus came to Congress and said, if you pull these people out before the fighting season is end, it puts people more at risk. That's the problem.

Yes, we drew 22,000 troops down last month, but the remaining troops that are there, who still have the same mission to prosecute counterinsurgency, are doing it with fewer people. That makes them less safe.

BIDEN: Fighting season...

RYAN: We're sending fewer people out in all of these hotspots to do the same job that they were supposed to do a month ago.

BIDEN: Because we turned it over...

RYAN: But we took 22,000 people out...

BIDEN: ... we turned it over to the Afghan troops we trained. No one got pulled out that didn't get filled in by trained Afghan personnel. And he's -- he's conflating two issues. The fighting season that Petraeus was talking about and former -- and Admiral Mullen was the fighting season this spring. That's what he was talking about. We did not -- we did not pull them out.

RYAN: The calendar works the same every year.

BIDEN: It does work the same every year. But we're not staying there...

RYAN: Spring, summer, fall. It's warm, or it's not. They're still fighting us. They're still coming over the passes. They're still coming into Zabul, to Kunar, to all of these areas, but we are sending fewer people to the front to fight them. And that's...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: That's right, because that's the Afghan responsibility. We've trained them.

RYAN: Not in the east.

RADDATZ: Let's move -- let's move to another war.

BIDEN: Not in the east?

RYAN: R.C. East -- R.C. East...

BIDEN: R.C. East is the most dangerous place in the world.

RYAN: That's right. That's why we don't want to send fewer people to the...

BIDEN: That's -- that's why we should send Americans in to do the job, instead of the -- you'd rather Americans be going in doing the job instead of the trainees?

RYAN: No. We are already sending Americans to do the job, but fewer of them. That's the whole problem.

BIDEN: That's right. We're sending in more Afghans to do the job, Afghans to do the job.

RADDATZ: Let's move to another war, the civil war in Syria, where there are estimates that more -- estimates that more than 25,000, 30,000 people have now been killed. In March of last year, President Obama explained the military action taken in Libya by saying it was in the national interest to go in and prevent further massacres from occurring there. So why doesn't the same logic apply in Syria? Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: Different country. It's a different country. It is five times as large geographically, it has one-fifth the population, that is Libya, one-fifth the population, five times as large geographically.

It's in a part of the world where they're not going to see whatever would come from that war. It seep into a regional war.

You're in a country that is heavily populated in the midst of the most dangerous area in the world. And, in fact, if in fact it blows up and the wrong people gain control, it's going to have impact on the entire region causing potentially regional wars.

We are working hand and glove with the Turks, with the Jordanians, with the Saudis, and with all the people in the region attempting to identify the people who deserve the help so that when Assad goes -- and he will go -- there will be a legitimate government that follows on, not an Al Qaida-sponsored government that follows on.

And all this loose talk of my friend, Governor Romney, and the congressman, about how we're going to do, we could do so much more in there, what more would they do other than put American boots on the ground?

The last thing America needs is to get in another ground war in the Middle East, requiring tens of thousands, if not well over 100,000 American forces. That -- they are the facts. They are the facts.

Now, every time the governor is asked about this, he doesn't say anything. He -- he goes up with a whole lot of verbiage, but when he gets pressed he says, no, he would not do anything different than we are doing now.

Are they proposing putting American troops on the ground? Putting American aircraft in the airspace? Is that what they're proposing? If they do, they should speak up and say so, but that's not what they're saying.

We are doing it exactly like we need to do to identify those forces who, in fact, will provide for a stable government and not cause a regional Sunni-Shia war when Bassad (sic) -- when Bashar Assad falls.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: Nobody is proposing to send troops to Syria. American troops.

Now, let me say it this way. How would we do things differently? We wouldn't refer to Bashar Assad as a reformer when he's killing his own civilians with his Russian-provided weapons. We wouldn't be outsourcing our foreign policy to the United Nations giving Vladimir Putin veto power over our efforts to try and deal with this issue. He's vetoed three of them.

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