Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Tim Ryan clash on foreign policy at the first Democratic primary debate Wednesday in Miami.
"Is that what you will tell the parents of the soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan, well, we just have to be engaged?" Gabard told Ryan when he said we have to be engaged in foreign conflicts. "As a soldier, I will tell you that answer is unacceptable. We have to bring our troops home from Afghanistan."
"The point is, if we aren't engaged, the Taliban will grow," Ryan replied. "We have got to have some presence there."
"The Taliban was there long before we came in, they'll be there long after we leave," Gabbard said.
"When we weren't in there, they started flying planes into our buildings," Ryan shot back.
"The Taliban didn't attack us on 9/11, al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11," Gabbard replied.
Statement from Ryan Campaign on Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/3vuV62kl1S— Tim Ryan (@TimRyan) June 27, 2019
MADDOW: I'm going to pick up -- I want to pick up this point, and I want to put this to Congressman Ryan. Today the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing two American servicemembers in Afghanistan. Leaders as disparate as President Obama and President Trump have both said that they want to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, but it isn't over for America. Why isn't it over? Why can't presidents of very different parties and very different temperaments get us out of there? And how could you?
RYAN: I appreciate that question. So I've been in Congress 17 years. And 12 of those years I've sat on the Armed Services Committee, the Defense Appropriations Committee or the Armed Services Committee.
And the lesson that I've learned over the years is that you have to stay engaged in these situations. Nobody likes it. It's long. It's tedious. But right now, we have -- so I would say we must be engaged in this. We must have our State Department engaged. We must have our military engaged to the extent they need to be.
But the reality of it is, this president doesn't even have people appointed in the State Department to deal with these things, whether we're talking about Central America, whether we're talking about Iran, whether we're talking about Afghanistan. We've got to be completely engaged.
And here's why, because these flare-ups distract us from the real problems in the country. If we're getting drones shot down for $130 million, because the president is distracted, that's $130 million that we could be spending in places like Youngstown, Ohio, or Flint, Michigan, or rebuilding -- or rebuilding...
MADDOW: Congresswoman Gabbard, I'm going to give you 30 seconds, actually, to jump off what he said. He described engagement as the problem.
GABBARD: Is that what you will tell -- is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan? Well, we just have to be engaged? As a soldier, I will tell you, that answer is unacceptable.
We have to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. We are in a place in Afghanistan where we have lost so many lives. We've spent so much money. Money that's coming out of every one of our pockets, money that should be going into communities here at home, meeting the needs of the people here at home.
We are no better off in Afghanistan today than we were when this war began. This is why it's so important to have a president and commander-in-chief who knows the cost of war and who's ready to do the job on day one. I am ready to do that job when I walk into the Oval Office.
TODD: Listen, I'm going to go down the line -- I'm going to go down -- I'm going to go down -- I'm going to go down the line here. You know what, you felt -- you felt like she was rebutting you. Get 30 seconds, go.
RYAN: Thank you. You're a very good man. I appreciate that.
TODD: Fair enough. I hear what you're saying. She invoked your name.
RYAN: I would just say, I don't want to be engaged. I wish we were spending this money in places that I've represented that have been completely forgotten and we were rebuilding. But the reality of it is, if the United States isn't engaged, the Taliban will grow. And they will have bigger, bolder terrorist acts. We have got to have some presence there...
GABBARD: The Taliban was there long before we came in. They're going to be there long before we leave.
RYAN: And they were -- yeah, exactly. Well, we were.
GABBARD: We cannot keep U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan thinking that we're going to somehow squash this Taliban that's been there, that every other country that's tried has failed.
RYAN: I didn't say -- I didn't say squash them. I didn't say squash them. When we weren't in there, they started flying planes into our buildings. So I'm just saying right now...
... we have an obligation...
GABBARD: The Taliban didn't attack us on 9/11. Al Qaida did.
RYAN: Well, I -- I understand...
GABBARD: Al Qaida attacked us on 9/11. That's why I and so many other people joined the military, to go after Al Qaida, not the Taliban.
RYAN: I understand that. The Taliban...
TODD: Go ahead, Congressman. Finish up, 10 seconds.
RYAN: The Taliban was protecting those people who were plotting against us. All I'm saying is, if we want to go into elections, and we want to say that we've got to withdraw from the world, that's what President Trump is saying. We can't. I would love for us to.
GABBARD: You know who's protecting Al Qaida right now? It's Saudi Arabia.