VP debate tackles Afghanistan, foreign policy

WASHINGTON – Foreign policy was a focal point of Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate, offering for the first time a closer look at the possible paths ahead in Afghanistan and a preview of what the presidential candidates will say later this month.

Here are a few excerpts from Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., from the event:


  • On Afghanistan

Biden: “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. … 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.”

Ryan: “We agree with a 2014 transition. But what we also want it do is make sure that we're not projecting weakness abroad, and that's what's happening here. … 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.

  • On Syria

Biden: “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. … 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.”

Ryan: “Nobody is proposing to send troops to Syria. … The longer this has gone on, the more people, groups like al-Qaida are going in. We could have more easily identified the free Syrian army, the freedom fighters, working with our allies, the Turks, the Qataris, the Saudis, had we had a better plan in place to begin with working through our allies. But, no, we waited for Kofi Annan to try and come up with an agreement through the U.N. That bought Bashar Assad time.”

  • On Iran

Biden: The ayatollah sees his economy being crippled. The ayatollah sees that there are 50 percent fewer exports of oil. He sees the currency going into the tank. He sees the economy going into freefall. And he sees the world for the first time totally united in opposition to him getting a nuclear weapon. … We will not allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon. Let's all calm down a little bit here. Iran is more isolated today than when we took office. It was on the ascendancy when we took office. It is totally isolated.

Ryan: “We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability. … They're racing toward a nuclear weapon. They're four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability. … Mitt Romney proposed these sanctions in 2007. In Congress, I've been fighting for these sanctions since 2009. The administration was blocking us every step of the way. Only because we had strong bipartisan support for these tough sanctions were we able to overrule their objections and put them in spite of the administration.”


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