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Biden breaks from Obama-era Afghanistan policy: I'm the guy who was against the surge'

Former vice president Joe Biden broke with Barack Obama on Afghanistan during the Democratic Debate in California, distancing himself from the policy of the previous administration on the long-time war.

“I’m the guy, from the beginning, who argued that it was a big, big mistake to surge forces to Afghanistan. Period. We should not have done it,” Mr Biden said on Thursday night in Los Angeles.

The Washington Post recently published a series of confidential government papers that show senior US officials lied to the American people about the war in Afghanistan, hiding the fact that it was not winnable.

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Mr Biden explained that he wanted a small footprint in Afghanistan and that he got into a big fight with the Pentagon as vice president over his position. He added that he would make sure that all combat troops were brought home but would leave special forces in the country.

Senator Bernie Sanders tried to challenge Mr Biden’s anti-war position, telling him that “you are the guy who helped lead us into the disastrous war in Iraq”. Mr Sanders, who has long been a vocal critic of America’s ongoing wars, reiterated that the US needs to rethink its “war on terror” and end the endless war, after losing thousands of soldiers as well as hundreds of thousands of civilians killed in wars.

When asked why he voted for the war in Afghanistan, Mr Sanders said that he was wrong, like most of his colleagues in Congress. The senator from Vermont added that congresswoman Barbara Lee, the only representative who voted against the war in Afghanistan, was right and “we were all wrong”.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said that he would leave Afghanistan one way or the other, adding that he supported the war initially. “I believe that we had no choice but to go to Afghanistan after 9/11,” he said. 

As the only army veteran on the debate stage who served in the war in Afghanistan, Mr Buttigieg added that the US may still need to keep some form of “limited special operations or intelligence capacity” even after leaving Afghanistan. 

On America’s war on terror, Elizabeth Warren, a Senator from Massachusetts, pledged to finally close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, years after Mr Obama failed to fulfil his own campaign promise. 

Ms Warren said that Guantanamo not only costs money, it is an “international embarrassment” for the United States.

Around 40 prisoners still remain at the military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, which has cost $540m in the past year alone.