Pete Buttigieg Waffles on Afghanistan Withdrawal Timeline

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a town hall meeting, Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Creston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

Mayor Pete Buttigieg promised to withdraw the United States from Afghanistan in the first year of his presidency, but he has since walked back that commitment.

During the CNN debate in July, Buttigieg told moderator Jake Tapper that the United States would withdraw from the country during his first year as president.

Here is the exchange from the CNN debate:

Jake Tapper: Mayor Buttigieg, you served in Afghanistan, where just yesterday two US service members were killed. There are currently about 14,000 US service members in Afghanistan. You’ve said, ‘One thing everybody can agree on is that we’re getting out of Afghanistan.’ Will you withdraw all US service members by the end of your first year in office?

Pete Buttigieg: We will withdraw. We have to.

Jake Tapper: In your first year?

Pete Buttigieg: Yes.

But in a recent podcast interview, Buttigieg said that he would not set a timeline for withdrawal, insisting that it was not responsible.

“Can I impose a clock on it? I can’t,” he admitted. “As a political candidate, making a promise that is going to lock in my presidency isn’t responsible.”

Buttigieg commented on the withdrawal from Afghanistan during an interview on the Angry American podcast with host Paul Rieckhoff.

When pressed on a timeline, Buttigieg said he would like to get the troops out in his first year, but acknowledged some level of combat troops in the country could be there for years.

He proposed a “light footprint” of intelligence and special operations troops in the region, citing the level of troops in Syria as an example.

“We’re probably going to have to have some kind of diplomatic intelligence and spec ops capability there for a while to make sure that it doesn’t become, once again, a place where there’s an attack on America,” he said.

Buttigieg worked in Afghanistan as an analyst for consulting group McKinsey and Company in 2009, as a client for the Department for Defense. He also served in the United States Naval Reserves and was deployed to Afghanistan for six months in 2014 but did not earn a combat ribbon.

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