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Biden: 'Premature' to say if more troops needed in Afghanistan

  • Story Highlights
  • Biden: U.S. should reevaluate resources only after election results are cleared up
  • Biden points out that no formal request made for more troops in Afghanistan
  • U.S. can handle Iran threat, Biden tells CNN
  • Biden says he and Obama don't believe recent U.S. protests fueled by racism
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- It's too early to say whether more troops are needed for Afghanistan, Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday, days after the top U.S. military officer said more forces are probably needed in order to effectively fight the insurgency.

Vice President Biden says success in Afghanistan depends on Afghans feeling they have a legitimate government.

Vice President Biden says success in Afghanistan depends on Afghans feeling they have a legitimate government.

"I think that's premature," Biden told CNN's Chris Lawrence in Baghdad while the vice president was on a brief trip there.

"The president made a decision back in March setting clearly what our goal was -- [it] is to defeat al Qaeda in that region -- and made a significant deployment of resources, civilian and military. They're now only getting in place; they're not all fully in place and deployed."

Biden said a reevaluation of resources in Afghanistan should only happen after the result of last month's presidential election in Afghanistan is cleared up. There are widespread allegations of massive fraud in the August 20 vote.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai secured more than 54 percent of the vote, according to the final uncertified results announced Wednesday. But the results won't be certified until investigations of election irregularities are completed. Video Watch Biden discuss the goal of the mission in Afghanistan »

The Afghan people must feel they have a legitimate government, because "the prospect of success is in direct proportion to the legitimacy of the government," Biden said. "And I still think that is very possible, but it is not done yet."

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told U.S. senators this week he wants a "fully resourced counterinsurgency" in Afghanistan. The Afghan people are waiting on the sidelines to see how committed the United States is, he said.

"A properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces," Mullen said, but how those forces will be composed in terms of combat troops and trainers will be a matter for discussion in the coming weeks.

"I have a sense of urgency about this. I worry a great deal the clock is moving very rapidly," he said.

Biden pointed out there has been no formal request for additional troops in Afghanistan, a decision that can only be made once the election outcome is determined and the present troops are in place.

"There's a lot of discussion going on, there's a lot of hypotheticals being raised by all of us," Biden said. "But as the president said, a decision on resources is not imminent -- additional resources."

Biden spoke to CNN the same day that the United States was announcing it would scrap the controversial missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. He explained the logic of the decision, saying Iran -- a key concern for the United States -- was not an immediate threat.

"I think we are fully capable and secure dealing with any present or future potential Iranian threat," Biden said. The Iranians "have no potential at this moment. They have no capacity to launch a missile at the United States of America."

The concern for the United States and its allies with Iran right now is whether the nation can develop and deploy a nuclear capability, because that could set off a destabilizing arms race in the Middle East, Biden said.

The vice president closed the interview by addressing the controversial remark by former President Jimmy Carter, who said he believes racism is an issue for President Obama in trying to lead the country.

Carter's initial comments came after Rep. Joe Wilson interrupted Obama's speech on health care to a joint session of Congress by shouting that the president was lying.


Biden acknowledged it is an "incredibly controversial issue" but said Obama doesn't see it the way Carter does.

"The president does not believe, nor do I believe, it's racially based," Biden said.

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