Biden Highlights Obama’s Plan to Escalate War in Afghanistan

By Staff | August 28, 2008 | 11:52 AM EDT

( - In his speech at the Democratic National Convention last night, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden highlighted Barack Obama’s plan to escalate U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.

Obama explained his plan in a July 14 op-ed in the New York Times, and in keeping with that plan, the Democratic platform approved by the delegates to Democratic National Convention this week included a statement saying the party was committed to increasing the U.S. troops in Afghanistan while drawing down, but not completely removing, U.S. troops from Iraq.

Biden brought the issue up while contrasting Sen. Obama’s (D-Ill.) judgment on national security issues to the judgment of the Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.).

“Now, let me ask you: whose judgment should we trust?” said Biden. “Should we trust John McCain's judgment when he said only three years ago, ‘Afghanistan, we don't read about it anymore because it's succeeded?’ Or should we trust Barack Obama, who more than a year ago called for sending two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan?

“The fact is, al-Qaida and the Taliban--the people who actually attacked us on 9/11--have regrouped in those mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and are plotting new attacks,” said Biden. “And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff echoed Barack’s call for more troops.  John McCain was wrong. Barack Obama was right.”

On July 14, the New York Times published an op-ed by Obama entitled, “My Plan for Iraq.”  It called for increasing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and drawing down, but not completely removing U.S. troops in Iraq.

“As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in,” Obama wrote in the New York Times. “We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010--two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.”

In the same op-ed, Obama said he would accompany an Iraq troop drawdown with an increase in the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

“Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been,” Obama wrote. “As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.

“As president,” Obama wrote, “I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq."

In the platform approved by convention delegates this week, Democrats said they would make increasing the number of U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan “the top priority.”

“We will finally make the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. We will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, and use this commitment to seek greater contributions–with fewer restrictions–from our NATO allies,” the Democratic platform says. “We will focus on building up our special forces and intelligence capacity, training, equipping and advising Afghan security forces, building Afghan governmental capacity, and promoting the rule of law.

“We will bolster our State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams and our other government agencies helping the Afghan people,” the platform continues. “We will help Afghans educate their children, including their girls, provide basic human services to their population, and grow their economy from the bottom up, with an additional $1 billion in non-military assistance each year–including investments in alternative livelihoods to poppy-growing for Afghan farmers–just as we crack down on trafficking and corruption.