By Arul Louis
New York, Sep 13 (IANS) Democratic Party front-runner for presidential nomination Joe Biden has said that the US should insist that Pakistan provide it with bases to conduct operations against terrorists in Afghanistan and unilaterally pull out troops from there.
Participating in the Democratic Party presidential nomination debate on Thursday night, the former vice president said: "We can prevent the US from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases -- insist the Pakistanis provide bases for us to air lift from and to move against what we know."
He did not address the problem of Pakistan sheltering and supporting some of the terrorist organisation and how the US could reconcile that with getting Islamabad's assistance against terrorism.
"We don't need those troops there. I would bring them home," he said.
The other candidates in the debate, who addressed the Afghanistan issue, also supported unilateral troop withdrawal regardless of whether there is an agreement with the Taliban, which Trump is seeking as a precondition to troop withdrawal.
A unilateral troop withdrawal could destabilise the situation in Afghanistan, where the elected government is under constant attacks from Taliban and other terrorists, some of them backed by Pakistan.
Biden gave an incoherent description of the Afghanistan situation saying that it was "three countries" with one under Pakistani control.
"It's three different countries. Pakistan owns the three counties -- the three provinces in the east. They're not any part of -- the Haqqanis run it. I will go on and on," he said.
The goal of the US in Afghanistan was counterterrorism and troops were not required to be on the ground there for it, he said.
"The whole purpose of going to Afghanistan was to not have a counterinsurgency, meaning that we're going to put that country together. It cannot be put together. Let me say it again. It will not be put together," he said.
Biden said that as vice president under former President Barack Obama he had opposed the administration's policy of troop "surge", which he asserted was an "open secret".
In 2009, Obama had ordered 17,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan to back up the 36,000 troops already there hoping it would end the insurgency and stabilise the nation.
Ten candidates seeking the Democratic Party nomination to run against President Donald Trump in the election next year faced off in Houston in the third debate, which was dominated by domestic issues like universal health insurance and gun control.
Trump's trade war with China and Afghanistan were among the few foreign policy issues that were debated.
All the candidates who addressed the Afghanistan issue called for withdrawing US troops regardless of whether there is an agreement with the Taliban, which Trump is seeking as a precondition to troop withdrawal.
Pete Buttigieg, who had served in Afghanistan as a Naval intelligence officer, said: "We have got to put an end to endless war."
Elizabeth Warren, whose three brothers served in the military, said, "We need to build with our allies. And we need to make the whole world safer, not keep troops bombing in Afghanistan."
"The problems in Afghanistan are not problems that can be solved by a military," she said.
On China, the candidates addressing the issue were against Trump's trade war and his tariffs, which they said were hurting American people as the prices of imported goods are rising.
Trump has said that China was delaying a trade settlement in hopes that a Democrat would be elected and would withdraw the tariffs.
None of the candidates, even those who admitted that China was conducting trade unfairly and stealing intellectual property, not say what leverage they would use.
Julian Castro, who said that he "would immediately begin to negotiate with China to ratchet down that trade war", raised the issue of human rights.
"We need to return to a leader when it comes to things like human rights. We have millions of Uighurs, for instance, in China that right now are being imprisoned and mistreated," he said.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)