U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii hit back at Democratic presidential rival Tim Ryan in the first Democratic presidential debate Wednesday in Miami after the Ohio Democrat said the U.S. must stay “engaged” in Afghanistan.
“We must be engaged in this,” Ryan said in response to a question on the lengthy Afghanistan war. “We must have our State Department engaged. We must have our military engaged to the extent they need to be.”
Gabbard, who served in Iraq as a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, told Ryan his comments were “unacceptable.”
“Is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan?” she said. “‘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.”
Ryan responded by saying he wished the U.S. didn’t need to be involved in the country but said it remains necessary.
“I don't want to be engaged,” he said. “I wish we were spending all this money in places that I represented that have been completely forgotten and we were rebuilding. But the reality of it is that if the United States doesn't engage, the Taliban will grow. And they will have bigger, bolder, terrorist acts. We have got to have some presence there.”
Ten Democratic presidential candidates took part in the NBC debate Wednesday night. Ten more candidates are set to debate Thursday. Four candidates were not invited.