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At Democratic debate, Buttigieg pledges to withdraw U.S. from Afghanistan during first year in office

South Carolina and Iowa voters react to Democratic debate

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg pledged to order a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan within his first year as America's commander-in-chief, saying it's time to end U.S. involvement in the ongoing 18-year war that he fought in as an intelligence officer for seven months. 

"We will withdraw, we have to," Buttigieg told the audience at the first night of the second Democratic debate in Detroit. 

"We will do whatever it takes to make American safe, but I thought I was one of the last troops leaving Afghanistan when I thought I was turning out the lights years ago," he added on Tuesday. "Every time I see news about somebody being killed in Afghanistan, I think about what it was like to hear an explosion and wonder whether it was somebody I knew or served with, a friend, a roommate, a colleague."

Election 2020 Debate
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participates in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Paul Sancya / AP

Buttigieg first enlisted in the Navy Reserve in 2009 and trained to become an intelligence officer. During his first term in office as mayor of South Bend, he was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months. In 2017, he resigned from the military and was honorably discharged.   

"We're close to the day when we will wake up to the news of a casualty in Afghanistan who was not born on 9/11," Buttigieg said on Tuesday.    

Since a U.S.-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and toppled the Taliban government, the U.S. has been entangled in what has become the longest war in American history. Ethnic strife within the country, a fragile Afghan government and a determined insurgency from Taliban militants have prompted Republican and Democratic presidents to keep a large troop presence in the country. 

Although President Trump has veered from Republican orthodoxy on foreign policy and advocated for a more isolationist approach on the world stage, his administration has kept about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. 

Buttigieg said it's not only important to elect a candidate like him, who is committed to ending "endless war," but also to ensure that Congress is not "asleep at the switch" to authorize and continue wars. 

"On my watch I will propose that any authorization for the use of military force have a three-year sunset and have to be renewed," he said. "Because if men and women in the military have the courage to serve, members of Congress have to summon the courage to vote."

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