File this under, “It's a bold strategy, Cotton.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden has suggested essentially moving U.S. troops from Afghanistan to Pakistan, whence they could launch counter-terrorism raids over the border, as needed.
Biden, who is attempting to secure the Democratic nomination for president in the 2020 election, mentioned his plan during Thursday night's Democratic debate in Houston.
When asked if President Barack Obama's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 was a mistake, Biden said no and quickly changed the topic to Afghanistan.
“We can prevent the United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases — insist the Pakistanis provide bases for us to airlift from and to move against what we know,” Biden said. “We don't need those troops there. I would bring them home.”
But given the Pakistani military and intelligence service's connections to the Taliban and terrorist groups, it is extremely unlikely that Pakistan would agree to host a U.S. counter-terrorism mission, said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington, D.C.
Pakistan has long supported the Taliban's efforts to defeat the United States in Afghanistan, said Roggio, managing editor of The Long War Journal. Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to shelter Al Qaeda.
“American political leaders seem to have magical theories about what to do in Afghanistan and don't really want to do the heavy lifting in order to take on the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other jihadist groups there,” Roggio told Task & Purpose. “The sooner American political leaders realize that Pakistan is an enemy and not an ally of the United States, the sooner we can move forward and deal with the problem.”
Thursday's debate also gave Biden an opportunity to re-litigate the Obama administration's decision in December 2009 to drastically increase the number of troops to Afghanistan. Biden said he was opposed to the troop surge because he favors a more narrowly tailored mission in Afghanistan.
“The whole purpose of going to Afghanistan was not to 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. It's three different countries. Pakistan owns the three counties – the three provinces in the east. The point is that it's a counter-terrorism strategy.”
It was not immediately clear if Biden is in favor of partitioning Afghanistan. In 2006, he co-authored an opinion piece in the New York Times calling for Iraq to be decentralized into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish autonomous regions, but he later denied that he advocated for Iraq to be broken up.