Democratic candidates debate: How will they bring troops home?

ABC News’ David Muir asks the candidates about their proposal to bring the troops home from Afghanistan.
12:16 | 09/13/19

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Transcript for Democratic candidates debate: How will they bring troops home?
I want to turn to America's longest war in Afghanistan. U.S. Talks with the Taliban are dead, according to the president. Secret talks at camp David have been canceled before they could happen. Many of you have weighed in on that already, so, I want to move past that tonight, to what all of you have promised on the campaign trail. Many of you on this stage have said you'd bring the troops home in your first term. Others have said in your first year. Senator Warren, we all know the presidency is much different from the campaign trail. President Obama wanted to bring the troops home, president trump promised to bring the troops and you have said of Afghanistan, let's help them reach a peace settlement. It is time to bring our troops home, in your words, starting right now. Would you keep that promise, with no deal with the Taliban? Yes. And I'll tell you why. What we're doing right now in Afghanistan is not helping the safety and security of the United States the it S safety and security of the united Tates, it is not helping the safety and security of the world, it is not helping the safety and security of Afghanistan. We need to bring our troops home. And then we need to make a big shift. We can not ask our military to keep solving problems that cannot be solved militarily. We're not going to bomb our way to a solution in Afghanistan. We need to treat the problem of terrorism as a worldwide problem. And that means we need to be working with all of our allies. Our European allies, our Canadian allies, our Asian allies, our allies in Africa and in South America. We need to work together to root out terrorism. It means using all of our tools. It means economic investment, it means expanding our diplomatic efforts instead of hollowing out the state department and deliberately making it so we have no eyes and ears in many of these countries. We need a foreign policy that is about our security and about leading on our values. Senator Warren, a quick follow on that, because top U.S. Leaders, military leaders on the ground in Afghanistan told me you can't do it without a deal with the Taliban. What if they told you that, would you listen to their advice? I was in Afghanistan with John McCain two years ago this past summer. I think it may have been senator McCain's last trip before he was and I talked to people -- we did. We talked to military leaders, American and local leaders, we talked to people on the ground and asked the question, the same one I asked on the senate armed services committee. Every time one of the generals comes through. Show me what winning looks like. Tell me what it looks like. And what you hear is a lot of -- because no one can describe it. And the reason no one can describe it is because the problems in Afghanistan are not problems that can be solved by a military. I have three older brothers who all served in the military. I understand first-hand the kind of commitment they have made. They will do anything we ask them to do. But we cannot ask them to solve problems that they alone cannot solve. We need to work with the rest of the world, we need to use our economic tools. We need to your our diplomatic tools. We need to build who our allies and we need to make the whole world safer, not keep troops bombing in Afghanistan. Senator Warren, thank you. I do want to stay on this, and I want to turn to mayor buttigieg. You're the only veteran on this you served in Afghanistan. We heard in recent days from the chair of the joint chiefs of staff who said in recent days, I'm not going to use the world withdrawal right now. It's our judgment the Afghans need support to deal with the level of violence. If he's not even using the word withdrawal, would you put your promise to bring troops home in the first year on hold to follow the advice? You know, I served under general Dunford, way under general Dunford, in Afghanistan. And today, September 12th, 2019, means that today you could be 18 years old, old enough to serve and have not been alive on 9/11. We have got to put ad to endless war. And the way we do it is see to it that that country will never again be used for an attack against our homeland and that does not require an open-ended commitment of ground troops. I'm going to say something else. Because if there's one thing we've learned about Afghanistan, from Afghanistan, is that the best way not to be caught up in endless war is to avoid starting one in the first place. And so when I am president, an authorization for military force will have a three-year sunset. A president will be required to go to congress to seek an authorization. Because if our troops can summon the courage to go overseas, the least of members of congress should be able to do is summon the courage to take a vote on whether they ought to be there. By the way, we also have a president right now who seems to treat troops as props, or worse, tools for his own enrichment. We saw what's going on with flights apparently being routed through Scotland just so people can stay at his hotels? I'll tell you, as a military officer, the very first thing that goes through your mind, the first time you ever make eye contact with somebody that you are responsible for in uniform, is, do not let these men and women down. This president is doing exactly that. I will not. Major buttigieg, thank you. I want to turn to vice president Biden, because the concerns about any possible vacuum being created in Afghanistan if you pulled the U.S. Troops out has been heightened by what we've seen in recent days on the ground in Iraq. When you were vice president, president Obama turned to you to bring the troops home from Iraq. You have said on the campaign trail, quote, I made sure the president turned to me and said, Joe, get the combat troops out of Iraq there was a major drawdown and ISIS seized 40% of the territory in Iraq. You then had to send thousands of troops back in. Was it wrong to pull out of Iraq that quickly and did the move actually help ISIS take hold? No, it wasn't wrong to pull I want to answer your Afghanistan question. I've been in and out of Afghanistan, not with a gun, and I admire my friend for his service. I've been in and out of Afghanistan more than anybody. It's an open secret that I was opposed to the surge in Afghanistan. The whole purpose of going to Afghanistan was to not have a counterinsurgency, meaning that we're going to put that country together. It cannot be put together. Let me say it again. It will not be put together. It's three different countries, Pakistan owns the three counties, the three provinces in the east, they're not any part, I could G on and on. Here's the pot. The point is, it's a counterterrorism strategy. We can prevent the United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases to air lift from and to move against what we know. We don't need those troops there. I would bring them home and Joe Dunford's a fine guy, but there has been an argument we've had for eight years. With regard to Iraq, the fact of the matter is that, you know, I should have never voted to give bush the authority to go in and do what we said he was going to do. It was designed, he said, to go in and get the security council to vote 15-0 to allow inspectors to go in to determine whether or not anything was being done with chemical weapons or nuclear weapons. And when that happened, he went ahead and went anyway without any of that proof. I said something that was not meant the way I said it. I said, from that point on. What I was arguing against in the beginning, once he started to put the troops in, was that in fact we were doing it the wrong way, there was no plan, we should not be engaged, we didn't have the people with us, we didn't have our allies with it, et cetera. And it was later when we came into office, that Barack, the president turned to me, he said, Joe, we have a plan to get out. He turned, he said, Joe will organize this, get the troops my son spent a year in Iraq and I understand, it made -- we were right to get the combat troops out. The big mistake that was made, which we predicted, was that you would not have a circumstance where the shia and the kurds would work together to keep ISIS from coming -- from moving in. Mr. Vice president, thank you. Wait to turn to senator Sanders on this, because the concern over Afghanistan is very similar to what we saw in Iraq when the troops came out. ISIS filled that vacuum. What do you make of people out there who are worried that if we pull out U.S. Troops too quickly, it will create safe haven all over again like the plotters of 9/11. David, let me answer that, but let me just comment on something that the vice president said. You talked about the big mistake in Iraq and the surge. The truth is, the big mistake, the huge mistake and one of the big differences between you and me, I never believed what Cheney and bush said about Iraq and I voted against the war in Iraq and help lead the opposition. And it's sad to say, I mean, I kind of, you know, had the feeling that there would be massive destabilization in that area if we went into that war. As the former chairman of the senate committee on veterans affairs, I want to pick up on what Pete said. We cannot express our gratitude to all of the men and women who have put their lives on the line, to defend us, who have responded to the call of duty. But I think also I am the only person up here to have voted against all three of trump's military budgets. I don't think we have to spend $750 billion a year on the military when we don't even know who our enemy is. I think that what we have got to do is bring this world together. Bring it together on climate change, bring it together in fighting against terrorism and make it clear that we as a planet, as a global community, will work together to help countries around the world, rebuild their struggling economies and do everything that we can to rid the world of terrorism, but dropping bomb on Afghanistan and Iraq was not the way to do it. Senator Sanders, thank you. I want to take this to Mr. Yang. You share the stage, as you know, when we talk about troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the vice president, who was in the situation room with senators who were on the senate armed services, the foreign relations committees, with an Afghanistan veteran, who is on the stage tonight. As you share the stage with these candidates, what makes you the most qualified on thistage to be commander in chief? I've sent a pledge to end the forever wars. We've been in a state of armed conflict for 18 years, which is not what the American people want. We have to start owning what we can and can't do. We're not very good at rebuilding countries and if you want proof, all you have to do is look within our own country of Puerto Rico. We've spent trillions of dollars to unclear benefits, lost thousands of lives and thank you, people, for your service. And the goal has to be to rebuild the relationships that have made America strong for decades. I would lead our armed forces with restraint and judgment. What the American people want is simply a president who has the right values and point of view and they can trust to make the right decisions when it comes to putting our young men and women into harm's way. And that's what I would do as president. Mr. Yang, thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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