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Biden’s erroneous claim on troops withdrawal from Iraq

“I was asked by the president in the first meeting we had on Iraq; he turned and said, ‘Joe, get our combat troops out,’ in front of the entire national security team. One of the proudest moments of my life was to stand there in [Iraq] . . . and tell everyone that we’re — that all our combat troops are coming home. I opposed the surge in Afghanistan.”

— Former vice president Joe Biden

In his first term, President Barack Obama gave Biden oversight of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Biden chaired a committee that made sensitive decisions about the pace and scope of the withdrawal of nearly 150,000 troops.

But before withdrawing forces in 2011, Obama’s administration tried to persuade Iraqi political leaders to allow a residual force of about 3,500 U.S. troops to remain. Some high-level officials in the Obama administration argued that a total withdrawal would open up a power vacuum in Iraq and erase the gains secured by U.S. forces and international allies. One of them was Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Biden argued to keep a residual force in Iraq, rather than pull all troops, according to the U.S. ambassador to the country at the time.

We gave the former vice president Two Pinocchios for a similar claim last week.

By 2014, with no U.S. forces in the picture, the Islamic State terrorist group began to take control of parts of Iraq. Obama, by 2016, had sent 5,000 U.S. troops back into the country to reverse the Islamic State tide. Biden was still the vice president, but he does not mention this inconvenient history in debates or public remarks.

At tonight’s debate, he added that he “opposed the surge in Afghanistan.” Obama increased troop levels from nearly 30,000 to more than 100,000 before ordering the withdrawal in 2011.

Fact-checking the second Democratic debate
Democratic 2020 presidential candidates (L-R) Sen. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pose together before the start of the second night of the second 2020 presidential Democratic candidates debate in Detroit, Wednesday. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Twenty candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination are again taking the stage — 19 who were on the stage during last month’s debate and one, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who was seen by debate-watchers for the first time Tuesday. The debate, hosted by CNN, began airing at 8 p.m. Eastern; the Fact Checker is writing on the candidates’ claims here.

Here’s what the Fact Checker found during the first debate.