foreign policy

Would you set a hard date for withdrawal from Afghanistan of all U.S. military forces?

By the end of my first year, did not rule out residual forces

By the end of my first year, did not rule out residual forces

Set the tightest deadline, but did not rule out some U.S. presence when asked

Pete Buttigieg (Dropped out)

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg is no longer running for president. “I’ve seen first-hand the costs of our long conflict in Afghanistan. It’s time to end this endless war. The only question is do we do it well or poorly,” Buttigieg told The Post. “The best option: a negotiated peace agreement, involving the Afghan government, in which we bring our ground troops home, maintaining a residual Special Operations presence to help ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a base for terrorist attacks against the United States or its allies.” In the second Democratic debate, he said, “we will withdraw, we have to,” and said he would withdraw U.S. troops within his first year in office.

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Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Tulsi Gabbard (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard is no longer running for president. “The war in Afghanistan is the longest in American history, spanning the leadership of three Presidents from both political parties,” Gabbard told The Post. “I don’t want to see another one of my brothers and sisters in uniform killed in Afghanistan. If I am elected, no American will be fighting in Afghanistan by the end of my first year in office.” Gabbard did not respond to requests for clarification on whether she would leave residual forces.

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Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Tom Steyer (Dropped out)

Billionaire activist

Steyer is no longer running for president. U.S. military forces would withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of his first year, Steyer told The Post. He did not rule out residual forces.

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Tom Steyer
Steyer

By the end of my first term, did not rule out residual forces

By the end of my first term, did not rule out residual forces

Others would like troops out of Afghanistan within four years, but did not rule out some U.S. presence when asked

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“I would bring American combat troops in Afghanistan home during my first term,” Biden told The Post. “Any residual U.S. military presence in Afghanistan would be focused only on counterterrorism operations. We need to be clear-eyed about our limited enduring security interests in the region: We cannot allow the remnants of Al Qa’ida in Afghanistan and Pakistan to reconstitute, and we must destroy the Islamic State presence in the region. Americans are rightly weary of our longest war; I am, too. But we must end the war responsibly, in a manner that ensures we both guard against threats to our Homeland and never have to go back.

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Joe Biden
Biden

Michael Bennet (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet is no longer running for president. Bennet “believes that there is not a military solution in Afghanistan, and it is time to draw down forces,” a Bennet spokesperson told The Post. “Michael believes the United States needs to work toward a political solution in which we are clear about what we aim to achieve. We must determine our objective, something that hasn’t been clear in Afghanistan for a number of years, and withdraw forces based on that mission.” There would not be U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of Bennet's first term, he told the New York Times. Bennet did not respond to multiple requests for clarification on whether he would leave residual forces.

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Michael Bennet
Bennet

Mike Bloomberg (Dropped out)

Former New York mayor

Bloomberg is no longer running for president. There would not be U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of his first term, Bloomberg told The Post. He would not rule out residual forces past that time.

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Mike Bloomberg
Bloomberg

Steve Bullock (Dropped out)

Governor, Montana

Bullock is no longer running for president. “There are young men and women entering military service this year who weren’t even born on 9/11. We’ve been entangled in the region for too long, and it’s time to reassess our posture,” Bullock told The Post. “I want our brave servicemembers to come home as soon as possible, and I’ll do everything in my power, including through diplomacy and working with our allies, to make that happen by the end of my first term.” A campaign spokesman confirmed that this did not rule out “the possibility of maintaining a small special forces contingent for the purpose of conducting counterterrorism operations, or being pre-positioned in the event they are needed.”

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Steve Bullock
Bullock

Julian Castro (Dropped out)

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro is no longer running for president. There would not be U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of Castro's first term, he told the New York Times. Castro did not respond to requests for clarification on whether he would leave residual forces.

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Julian Castro
Castro

Kamala D. Harris (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, California

Harris is no longer running for president. Harris “believes these values belong at the center of our foreign policy. As president, she’ll end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and protracted military engagements in places like Syria. But she’ll do so responsibly – by consulting our Generals and Ambassadors, not via tweet,” her campaign website said. Harris told the Council on Foreign Relations, “as I have said many times, this war in Afghanistan must come to an end. I was honored to visit with our brave troops and national security professionals there last year, and I’ll do everything in my power to achieve a political solution – if one hasn’t been reached already – that allows us to bring them home responsibly in my first term.” Harris did not respond to requests for clarification on whether she would leave residual forces.

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Kamala Harris
Harris

Amy Klobuchar (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar is no longer running for president. There would not be U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of Klobuchar's first term, she told the New York Times. She later told CBS News, “You could always have training footprints and people working there ready to go if there is a complete upsurge, but I think that you have to make sure that this country can function on their own.” Klobuchar did not respond to requests for clarification on whether she would leave residual forces.

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Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Beto O'Rourke (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Texas

O'Rourke is no longer running for president. O'Rourke “has pledged that as President, he would bring a responsible end to the “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan,” an O'Rourke spokesperson told The Post. “Eighteen years into the war in Afghanistan, and nearly three decades after our first engagement in Iraq, the time has come to cancel the blank check for endless war and to ensure that any future engagements are the result of a national conversation about our security interests and duly authorized by Congress after a robust national conversation about our security interests.” There would not be U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of O'Rourke's first term, he told the New York Times. O’Rourke did not respond to requests for clarification on whether he would leave residual forces.

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Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Tim Ryan (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Ohio

Ryan is no longer running for president. “We must seek to bring American forces home from Afghanistan in the smartest way possible, with stated goals that are operationally feasible and diplomatically wise,” Ryan told The Post. “Even with the bulk of American forces gone, we must work with our allies and ensure the United States maintains the ability to counteract any rebirth of terror elements within the country, through targeted military strikes when warranted. We must also remain engaged diplomatically with the Afghan government and our allies to push future governments in Afghanistan toward openness, equality, and the rule of law. By the end of my first term, the bulk of US combat troops would be sent home.”

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Tim Ryan
Ryan

Bernie Sanders (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Vermont

Sanders is no longer running for president. “I would withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan as expeditiously as possible. It is past time to end our endless wars,” Sanders told The Post. He told the New York Times that "by the end of my first term, our troops would be home." A campaign spokesman confirmed that this did not rule out leaving residual forces.

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Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Joe Sestak (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak is no longer running for president. “Yes, within four years in a systematic strategy of milestones that can be measured and will a nation able to handle its infrastructure, governance and any residual insurgency,” Sestak told The Post. A campaign spokesman confirmed that this did not rule out leaving residual forces.

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Joe Sestak
Sestak

Elizabeth Warren (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

Warren is no longer running for president. “We have been in Afghanistan for 18 years with increasingly diminishing returns for our own security — we’ve “turned the corner” so many times it seems we’re now going in circles. Expecting a military victory when a political settlement is required is unfair to our military, and unfair to the Afghan people. It's long past time to bring our troops home, and I would begin to do so immediately,” Warren told The Post. There would not be U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of her first term, Warren told the New York Times. Warren did not respond to requests for clarification on whether she would leave residual forces.

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Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Andrew Yang (Dropped out)

Tech entrepreneur

Yang is no longer running for president. Yang hopes U.S. troops would be home by the end of his first term, but “it's impossible to know that for sure,” he told the New York Times.

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Andrew Yang
Yang

Draw down troops, but rely on conditions to dictate full withdrawal

Draw down troops, but rely on conditions to dictate full withdrawal

These candidates did not set a timeline for withdrawal

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. “We have to make sure there is a peace settlement in Afghanistan; it obviously has to involve the Taliban. Until that point I don't think it's sensible to take out our troops,” de Blasio told the New York Times. “If it's possible to forge a real peace plan that's durable,” there would not be U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of de Blasio's first term.

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Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

John Delaney (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney is no longer running for president. “While I support dramatically reducing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, I presently do not believe that a full withdrawal is in our best interests and therefore I envision keeping a small contingency of U.S. forces with a specific focus to train and support local security forces,” Delaney told the Council on Foreign Relations.

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John Delaney
Delaney

Deval Patrick (Dropped out)

Former governor, Massachusetts

Patrick is no longer running for president. “A prompt and orderly troop withdrawal would be my objective,” Patrick told the Council on Foreign Relations. “But without receiving expert guidance from our military, intelligence and foreign policy professionals, I cannot responsibly commit in advance to a specific timeframe.”

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Deval Patrick
Patrick

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)

Author

Williamson is no longer running for president. “No. The focus needs to be on diplomacy and making sure that women under the Taliban are safe,” Williamson told The Post. “We need a broader discussion than terrorism and troops to make sure we don’t do more harm by pulling out under an artificial deadline.” Williamson told The Daily 202, “this has been a feminist issue since before 2001. One positive thing that’s come from us being there has been the lessening of brutality towards women and the rights of women that came into full expression as a result of liberation.”

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Marianne Williamson
Williamson

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Background President Trump has vowed to end America’s longest war, but reluctantly agreed to add U.S. troops in 2017. Former President Barack Obama was criticized for placing a time limit on a “surge” of U.S. forces intended to turn the tide in a stalemated war, and his 2016 deadline for withdrawal of all U.S. forces came and went. Trump has recently complained that U.S forces are reduced to “policemen” with make-work assignments, but he set no specific deadline for an exit. He has empowered an envoy to seek a settlement with the Taliban that would allow a reduction of U.S. forces, angering the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

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How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. foreign policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role, and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports and surveys. See something we missed? Let us know.

This page will update as we learn more about the candidates’ plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president. If a candidate dropped out after a question was published here, their stance is included under the "Show former candidates" option. If they dropped out before a question was first published, the Post did not reach out to get their stance.

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Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.