Did Biden commit U.S. to longer engagement in Afghanistan?
January 12th, 2011
08:29 AM ET

Did Biden commit U.S. to longer engagement in Afghanistan?

During the Obama administration's review of its Afghan policy, Vice President Joe Biden was a fierce advocate for a narrowly focused counterterrorism strategy.

He had long been skeptical of the more expansive counterinsurgency approach with 30,000 additional troops ultimately decided upon by the president, arguing that pursuing al Qaeda targets in Pakistan and on the Afghan border was a smarter way to go.

Like any good second-in-command who has been overruled, Biden got on board with the president's new direction. Still, he has been openly critical of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's lackluster efforts to tackle corruption and has questioned his credibility as a partner.

In November, after the bloodiest year of the nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan, NATO allies agreed in Lisbon that Afghan forces would start taking over parts of the country this year, with Afghanistan's entire territory coming under Afghan security control at the end of 2014. Biden was firm that the new deadline was not open-ended.

"We're starting this process, just like we did in Iraq," Biden told NBC's "Meet the Press" last month. "We're starting it in July of 2011, and we're going to be totally out of there come hell or high water by 2014."

But now Biden seems to be singing a different tune. Standing next to Karzai in Kabul, Biden assured his Afghan host that United States would remain in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 handover deadline if the Afghans want them to stay.

"Hopefully, we will have totally turned over the ability ... to the Afghan security forces to maintain the security of the country," Biden said. "But we are not leaving if you don't want us to leave."

So did Biden, and the administration at large, change its tune?

Because of Biden's comments last month, it's easy to view the comments as a shift. But several senior U.S. officials explained that Biden was talking about the "enduring partnership" President Barack Obama has spoken of, promising to maintain ongoing cooperation with the Afghan military beyond 2014, not only on civilian issues such as governance and economic development but on security, including training of the Afghan army and policy and counterterrorism training and assistance.

Even during the NATO summit in Lisbon, U.S. officials were quick to say that the transition to the Afghan army was "conditions-based" and held out the possibly that some troops could remain past 2014.

Iraq, for example, took full responsibility for its security last summer, but U.S. troops remain, even though they are on schedule for a full withdrawal by the end of this year.

The truth is, it is much too early to know exactly what the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan will look like next year, let alone 2014. Most Afghan experts and many U.S. and Afghan officials would concede that it is highly unlikely the Afghan security forces will be ready for a complete takeover by 2014 or even that the country will be stable enough for a total drawdown.

Washington and its NATO allies are still in the midst of trying to stabilize the situation on the ground, which has been slowing unraveling for several years

One of the reasons it's impossible to tell where the United States will be in Afghanistan in three years is Pakistan's crucial role to success. As long as the Pakistanis waver in their commitment to fighting the Afghan Taliban, whose leadership is in North Waziristan on its side of the border with Afghanistan, the U.S. effort in Afghanistan will be in jeopardy.

There is another simple reason U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in 2014 is unpredictable. Both presidents, Obama and Karzai, could be out of power. Karzai's term ends in 2014, unless he tries to dodge his term limit. And although the Obama administration and Democrats hope for a 2012 election victory, it is possible Republicans could reclaim the White House. That probably would mean new ideas for Afghanistan.

CNN's Kate Bolduan contributed to this analysis.

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Dindy.....

    SALERNO....IF OUR LOVED ONE STAYED AT HOME MOST OF US WOULD HAVE BEEN DEAD LONG TIME AGO . THEY WENT TO WAR FOR US TO LIVE IN PEACE. THIS IS MY EXPERIENCE IN MY COUNTRY. IT IS REALLY SAD. BUT IT IS THE TRUTH. SOMEONE HAS TO DO THE DIFFICULT JOB FOR OTHERS TO LIVE SAFELY. MAY GOD HELP ALL OF US TO COME OUT OF THIS TERRIBLE SITUATION.!!! Amen.

    January 17, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
    • salerno

      DINDY – MAY BE IT WAS TRUE IN THE PAS, BUT NOW ONLY USA HAD SOMETHING LIKE 9/11, AND IT WAS A REACTION CAUSED BY USA AGGRESSIVE POLICY. ALL OTHER COUNTRIES DID NOT HAVE PROBLEM WITH ISLAMIC TERRORISM BEFORE THE RECENT WARS. CLINTON BOMBING OF IRAQ AND SUDAN, SUPPORT FOR ISRAELç WERE US PROBLEMS. ALQAEDA DID NOT HIT SWITZERLAND OR LUXEMBOURG.

      January 17, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        Sorry for misspelling PAST instead of pas.

        January 18, 2011 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ryan of Wiggins, MS

    Yea i think he just agreed that we will be in afghanistan longer then expected, and that we will be deploying like we are now wit no change and like it was said in da last paragraph neither president might not even be in power come 2014 so i have no faith or believe that they are goin to pull us out what so ever and especiallly if da republicans take over then we will be over hear forever because they love the fact of war and thrive on it, and don't consider that they aren't da ones coming over here every other year.....

    January 16, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dindy.....

    May God guide the men and women in war and bring them back home safely!!!

    January 15, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • BANGASH

      Very strange, DINDY, If you are same from Srilanka, settled in USA, then your this strange wish is understandable and surely your application for Green card is in the process. So you can say this but we the innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan are main victim in war on terror and for us both OBAMA and OSAMA are our killers and we, for the last three decades, have lost all what we had. Let us pray to GOD for justice, in this three decades long bloodshed, in this region which USA has carried on for global strategic designs with the help of Alqaida.

      January 16, 2011 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        Bangash – I live in Europe, but my feeling too is that Obama/Osama is just a double-face terrorism. May be they have the same god. In the west there is a resilient nazi ideology among part of the people, while inside Islam the old good sheiks are been replaced with violent imams.

        January 16, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
      • Dindy.....

        Bngash...Afghan was invaded by Russia and USA helped them to become free from communism. Just like they helped South Korea.Then extremists attacked USA for a different reason . They turned against the people who helped them once. So ungrateful and a cheap quality which is lower than animals. If you have ever met many people in USA most of them has nothing to do with rest of the world as their own country is too big for them to see and travel. In the History of this world most invaders are not from USA.
        They went to support to liberate other nations and gave their lives as true Christians. If I am you I would support the helper but not the killer who come to destroy and make people jump out from tall buildings as they have no way to save their life, That day ..that most terrible incident will never fade away from any man or woman with a heart . If that happen to you in your country what do you do??? PLEASE THINK. IT SHOULD NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.

        January 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
      • Dindy.....

        BANGASH.... INNOCENT CIVILIANS IN USA ALSO SUFFER AS THEIR LOVED ONCE ARE FIGHTING IN A WAR WHICH BEGAN AFTER 9/11. IT IS NOT ONLY PAKISTAN,IRAQ OR AFGHANISTAN.

        January 16, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        DINDY – INNOCENT CIVILIANS IN USA SHOULD ASK THEIR LOVED TO STAY AT HOME. THEY VOLUNTARILY JOINT THE ARMY SO I DO NOT CARE IF THEY ARE KILLED.

        January 17, 2011 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Dindy.....

      Bangash..... No matter where I live . I love whole world. World is my Home. In whole world ..most people have been kind to me with the grace of God. Most of the nations have sit and eat in my house as God provided. But I dont like when people blow off themselves with others. People cant take the law to their hands. Something like 9/11 should never happen. Something like central bank bombing in Sri lanka should never happen. My comments have nothing to do with green card or living in USA... but living with the divine mercy and grace of God.every where. All of us are same with sorrow and pain and happiness in God. MY CHILDREN OR YOUR CHILDREN ...MY COUNTRY OR YOUR COUNTRY OR USA SAME TO ME.I dont want suicide bombers in any country and dont want to see more 9/11. I dont want US OR ANY OTHER ARMY STAY LONGER IN ANOTHER COUNTRY. yet they have a mission. God will decide at the end what is right or wrong although it seems very difficult to see it at the moment. But I dont want innocent civilians to suffer with any thing. world should help them to find safer places as these wars continue for a long time.

      January 16, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
      • BANGASH

        DINDY I APPRECIATE YOUR FEELINGS AS A HUMAN BEING BUT I AM SORRY TO SAY THAT GROUND REALITIES ARE TOTALLY OPPOSITE. I SEE YOUR INNOCENCE BUT KINDLY VISIT http://www.johnpwrkins.org AND SEE THE REAL FACE OF USA. JOHN PERKINS IS LOYAL AMERICAN CITIZEN AND VERY MUCH PROUD OF BEING A TRUE SON OF AMERICA. HE HAS SERVED IN NSA AND TODAY ON A MISSION TO CHANGE THIS BARBARIC FACE OF USA.

        January 18, 2011 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
      • BANGASH

        http://www.johnperkins.org THIS IS CORRECT ADDRESS

        January 18, 2011 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. BANGASH

    John they are wrong as last ten years are sufficient to asses and realize that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won when one compare each passing year with the coming one. Basically this is bad luck of American nation that their enemies are their guardians. In this death game world over only MIC and few Generals are main beneficiaries while rest all Americans are paying in the shape of rising hate against them in the world, rising unemployment, taxes and financial deficits.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan in Lafayette, IN

      BANGASH you don't know what your talking about. There has been no rise in taxes, unemployment has been going down and also the deficit. You just can't face the fact that we are winning in Afghanistan and the Afghan people want a free and democratic state not a state run by radical Islamic fanatics!

      January 13, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        Economic situation is not very good in USA, especially for the average people. Corporate profits are doing quite well becouse of gains in productiivity, but the employment remain very low compared with previous recessions. Additionally the biggest problem is deficit. It is not going down, and Bernanke is making continous warnings about it.

        January 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
      • Dan in Lafayette, IN

        The deficit is down a little bit not much but a little and by the time Obama is out of office it will be noticeable. As for employment were gaining 100's of thousands of jobs a month and by years end were projecting 2 million gained. The economic situation is looking better and it looks like were coming out of the recession. So don't count out America's resolve because we will get through it just like we did with Islamic terrorism in Iraq and as we will too in Afghanistan!

        January 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BANGASH

    What an open and clear example of US double standard, when President promised gradual withdrawal, beginning this year and ending in 2014 while Vice President promises extension beyond 2014. At, same time, busy in negotiations with the Taliban to find safe way out of Afghan Quagmire and then sending more troops and weapons to expand wars further. If this is American national pride and style then where Americans pride in universal justice, equality and fraternity is?

    January 13, 2011 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Unfortunaely,we are living in a very selfish age today where most people in America tend to put themselves first and foremost. Moreover,due to their arrogance and self-righteousness,most Americans are now deluded into believing they have a right to be in Afghanistan which definately is not true!!!

      January 13, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
      • John

        Sorry folks,I left the "t" out of Unfortunately in the post above. That was a missprint.

        January 13, 2011 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
      • Dan in Lafayette, IN

        That's quite all right,John. I'd much rather read your posts than those of those idiotic,ignorant,hateful warmongers!

        January 13, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Willie 12345

      Good post,BANGASH. Keep it up,please.

      January 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. mcmurdo proud military fiance

    I think it would of been better if biden sent out a vote as to if they should stay past 2014 to the americans as they are the voters, gees this has been going on for so long, enough is enough , after 2014 start doing what canada is doing non combat role , hopefully we will stick with it if the PM dosnt change is mind again, the afghan people have to start stepping up to the plate , this is dragging on and on, and I am getting tired of it , I say bring our troops home safe and sound after 2014 until then boys keep up the good work hooah

    January 13, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      What we need to do mcmurdo is to get out of Afghanistan altogether and let the Iranians,Chinese,Vietnamese and the Russians step up to the plate and rebuild that country after we stop this cursed war! And we need to do that a.s.a.p.!

      January 13, 2011 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
      • Dan in Lafayette, IN

        Well stated,Joseph. Thank you.

        January 13, 2011 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan in Lafayette, IN

      Yea mcmurdo I would like to see our men and women home safe and sound, but I don't think either Afghanistan or Pakistan will be able to stop these maniac killers if we were to leave. They would have the support of Iran and all Muslim terrorist groups to not only take over Afghanistan but Pakistan as well. We need to be sure Pakistan cleans up it's side of the border of these animals before we leave. If they can't do it or are unwilling we need to do it ourselves! IT MUST BE DONE!!!

      January 13, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dan in Lafayette, IN

    We should have air bases in both north and south Afghanistan well into the twenty's if we make it that far. Just east of there is where the worst of radical Islam is being taught to all the young men and boys! This is where the worst fighting will be in this war on terror so! We also had better leave 20 or so thousand troops there along with a contingent of Afghan National Army forces there to solidify the unity to battle these Islamic terrorists until they either are sent to their judgment day or they repent and be more tolerate of others and their beliefs and begin to learn to love one another instead of all the hatred for others. This is the way of the Taliban and what they call the truth of 360 degrees which lie about Jesus and his teachings. These people are the anti=Christ and it will be in Pakistan one of the ten(heads) Islamic countries that will fly the anti-Christ flags. LETS DO ALL WE CAN DO TO THESE LYING KILLERS BEFORE THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH!!!!!!

    January 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Slate

    Not sure we should remain in Afghanistan.

    January 12, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. BUBBA--ALABAMA STYLE!!!

    Now I guess that we'll never get out of Afghanistan. One more step towards our empire building in Central Asia. Since WW2 the US has had troops in Germany,but for what purpose? And just whom are they purportedly "defending" the Germans from??? That is the question.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |