Buttigieg, O'Rourke: No More Troops to the Middle East; Get Out of Afghanistan

By Susan Jones | May 28, 2019 | 6:54am EDT
Democrat presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Two of the two dozen liberal Democrats now running for president made appearances on different Sunday news-maker shows, both of them agreeing that it's time for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan; and both saying it's wrong to send 1,500 more U.S. troops to the Middle East to deter Iranian aggression.

Martha Raddatz, host of ABC's "This Week," asked South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg if he would have approved the Pentagon's request to send 1,500 more U.S. troops to the Middle East. President Trump has said those troops would have a "mostly protective" mission.

"I think our national security policy has to be to avoid escalation in the Persian Gulf," Buttigieg said.

"Escalation is the last thing we need in the Middle East right now. And when you see what's been happening, it appears that the administration, driven, by the way, by John Bolton, one of the architects of the Iraq War, is continuing to try to prosecute a case to lead to higher tensions, escalation and perhaps conflict with Iran as though we learned nothing from the last 15 years of armed conflict -- conflict in the Middle East."

Buttigieg suggested that the troop deployment may be an attempt by the president to distract from other issues:

"I think that we have the means to protect our assets in the Middle East. And the way this is being talked about makes me wonder whether this -- this is driven as much by domestic politics as it is by national security imperatives."

On Afghanistan, Buttigieg said, "We need to leave."

"When I left Afghanistan five years ago, I thought I was one of the very last troops turning out the lights as I went. We need to leave. And the reality is, we are leaving. This is pretty much the only thing that the American left and right, and the Afghan government and the Taliban and the international community all agree on is that it's time for us to go."

Buttigieg spent seven months in Afghanistan in 2014 as a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve.

Buttigieg said as president, he would focus on threats to the homeland emanating from Afghanistan, "establish whatever intelligence and special operations capability is needed to head off those threats, and remove any ground presence that goes beyond that."

"Our responsibility is not to establish peace, security, democracy and prosperity in Afghanistan. Our responsibility is to make sure that Americans cannot be attacked, and anything that is not directly related to that is not a good enough justification for us to have troops on the ground in what is amounting to a forever war," Buttigieg added.

Democrat presidential contender Beto O'Rourke (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Former Rep. Robert "Beto" O'Rourke expressed similar views on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"Do you think President Trump was right to send these 1,500 troops to the Middle East to counter the Iran threat?" host Margaret Brennan asked O'Rourke.

"No," he said. "President Trump is escalating tensions, is provoking yet another war in the Middle East, where we find ourselves already engaged in war in so many countries, in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen, not too far from there in Libya and in Afghanistan.

"So, we don't need another war. We need to find a way to work with allies and partners and in some cases with our enemies."

Asked if he doubts U.S. intelligence warnings that Iran is threatening U.S. troops in Iraq, O'Rourke said, "I have a really hard time believing this administration and believing a -- a president who has so wantonly lied and misconstrued the facts at every single turn to his own gain.

I'm suspicious of a national security team that has so often called for war. You have someone, in Bolton, who has publicly said that he wants regime change in Iran. The body count in that kind of war on both sides will not be measured in the hundreds or the thousands, but the tens or hundreds of thousands.

If there is a peaceful alternative to this -- and I know that there is -- then we must do everything within our power to pursue it. And that's what I would do in my administration. I would stick up for our values, make sure that we defend our allies, protect the lives of our fellow Americans, but do that peacefully where we can.

Otherwise, we will produce more wars, more veterans coming back to this country seeking the care that they are being effectively and functionally denied today. I think we need to do far better going forward, and I know that we can.

On Afghanistan, O'Rourke, like Buttigieg, said he would bring U.S. troops home.

"We've got to end our war in Afghanistan," he said.

"We've got to make sure that we satisfy the conditions that first led us to go to war in the first place, that those who perpetrated 9/11 are brought to justice, that Afghanistan is never again used to stage attacks on the United States of America or Americans.

"We have satisfied those conditions. Now it is time for us to work with the partners in the region to produce a lasting peace and stability and bring our U.S. service members back home."

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