Joe Biden was a fountain of insight, or something, during the debate with Paul Ryan. Here he is on the war in Iraq, "ended" by Obama:
On Iraq, the president said he would end the war. Governor Romney said that was a tragic mistake; we should have left -- that he ended it -- Governor Romney said that was a tragic mistake; we should have left 30,000 troops there.
So, troops out means 'war over'. But over in Afghanistan, Biden went awry, if we can believe David Sanger of the Times:
At the debate, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. could not have been more emphatic: By the end of 2014 Americans will be out of Afghanistan. “We are leaving. We are leaving in 2014, period.” After that, he said, it was up to the Afghans to secure their own country.
But leaving? Not exactly.
In every major conversation with the Afghans and the Pakistanis, American officials talk about their plans for an “enduring presence” of American troops.
No one says, at least officially, how big that enduring partnership would be. But the internal estimates cited by American officials in recent interviews run from 10,000 to 15,000 troops. That would include a counterterrorism force, probably made up of special forces and training forces. Those troops would be there to keep the Afghan security forces on track and as a tripwire to keep the Taliban from taking Kabul, if they ever threatened the capital again. The force would include drone operators, so that the United States can keep patrolling the skies and, on occasion, launch missile attacks inside Pakistan or in Afghan territory.
And, least discussed of all, it includes bomb search teams and other specialists to keep an eye on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. There is no bigger concern inside the Obama administration than how to respond if a nuclear weapon or nuclear material were at large, and after a 2009 scare — when the White House briefly thought the Pakistani Taliban might have obtained nuclear material — President Obama has insisted that the United States be able to respond quickly, according to interviews with current and former administration officials.
So an enduring American presence in Afghaistan won't be a tragedy and won't be inconsistent with declaring the war to be over. However, a similar approach to consolidating our gains in Iraq would be. I am sure that is clear to the Democratic base, if no one else.
And with respect to Iraq, we had the same position before the withdrawal, which was we agreed with the Obama administration: Let’s have a Status of Forces Agreement to make sure that we secure our gains. The vice president was put in charge of those negotiations by President Obama, and they failed to get the agreement. We don’t have a Status of Forces Agreement because they failed to get one. That’s what we are talking about.