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Updated 2:50 AM  |  September 27, 2016
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Trump: Military officials ‘don’t know what they’re doing’ buying equipment

Donald Trump criticized the Defense Department for its history of costly acquisition programs during the debate Monday, suggesting those managing them have done so poorly.

“We buy products for our military and they come in at costs that are so far above what they were supposed to be, because we don’t have people that know what they’re doing,” he said, touting his efforts in private business while saying he would do better.

The issue is a frequent punching bag for politicians, especially Democrats who would prefer to see that money spent on domestic programs and libertarians. A variety of current defense projects are considered over budget, particularly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Pentagon also cancelled several projects during the Obama administration after runaway cost overruns that went back years.

The Defense Department has attempted to get a better handle on defense spending through efforts such as Better Buying Power plan, which calls for more contracts with financial incentives for a job well done, rather than strictly guaranteeing money to defense contractors. But the issue will remain central to many discussions about how the U.S. military should prepare for the future.

In January, the independent Center for Strategic and International Studies warned of a forthcoming “bow wave” of modernization that will cost tens of billions of dollars in each of the coming years. The most expensive programs include the Air Force’s future long-range strike bomber, the KC-46 tanker, the F-35 and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

“When the next administration takes office in January 2017, it will need to make many difficult choices to rationalize long-term defense modernization plans with the resources available,” the report said. “Understanding these long-term modernization plans — and the budgets associated with them — is important because the sooner adjustments are made the less disruptive and costly they will be.”

Who made the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq?

Donald Trump laid blame for the Islamic State’s rise at Hillary Clinton’s feet, repeating his argument that the 2011 troop withdrawal from Iraq – when she was secretary of state – set the conditions for the extremist group’s rise. Clinton countered tonight by saying the decision to make a military exit from Iraq was made by President George W. Bush.

So who’s right about the U.S. exit from Iraq?

They each are in certain ways. In 2008, after extensive negotiations, President Bush and Iraqi leaders finalized a comprehensive Status of Forces Agreement, which set a path for curtailing the long U.S. military presence and gradually handing the Iraqi government more responsibility for its own security. As part of the agreement, the Bush administration agreed to remove all combat troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

After Obama took over in 2009, many U.S. officials, like many in Baghdad, wanted to strike a new arrangement that would leave a residual force to help Iraq face ongoing security challenges. Both sides abandoned efforts to strike a deal in October 2011, when it became clear that the Iraqi political leaders would not accept the Obama administration’s conditions regarding legal protections for remaining U.S. soldiers. At the time, many political observers believed that outcome suited the White House, where many leaders were eager to leave the messy conflict started by Obama’s predecessor in the past.

Several months later, on Dec. 15, 2011, Obama’s then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Baghdad to officially lower the flag on the U.S. mission there.

Live video: Who won the debate?
Iran nuclear deal controversial, but no verdict in yet

The Iran nuclear deal, lifting international sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear program, remains hugely controversial a year after it was signed and eight months after it was implemented.

But the final verdict will not come in for years yet.

Donald Trump said the Iranians will “have nuclear” in 10 years. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal’s official name, lengthened the time that it would take for Iran to have nuclear “breakout.” It had been a few months, and post-deal it was a full year, a time span when presumably the world could decide how to react.

The limitations do not expire at once, however. Most expire in 10 to 15 years. Some theoretically last longer.

So far, the International Atomic Energy Agency has certified that Iran has complied with all its commitments.

We still don’t know anti-ISIS plans of either candidate

Clinton passed up an opportunity to double-down on her early campaign call to establish a safe zone inside Syria, the biggest difference she had with President Obama over fighting the Islamic State, but something she hasn’t recently repeated.

Instead, she more or less called for a continuation of the current administration’s policy, saying that “we have to intensify our air strikes against ISIS [Islamic State], eventually support our Arab and Kurdish partners to be able to take on ISIS in Raqqa,” their headquarters in Syria. “Our military is assisting in Iraq,” Clinton said, and we are “hoping that within the year we’ll be able to push ISIS out of Iraq and really squeeze them in Syria.”

Recalling her participation as secretary of state during the operation that took out Osama bin Laden, Clinton said she would emphasize the importance of going after Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Speaking of what Trump has called his “secret plan” to go after the militants, Clinton used an oft-repeated line, saying that “the only secret is that he has no plan.”

If he does, Trump did not share it tonight. He quickly shifted the subject to insisting, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he never supported the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq, and charged that the Obama administration — and Clinton — were responsible for the birth and growth of the Islamic State.

Real-time fact checking and analysis of the first presidential debate
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