- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2009

UPDATED:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Sunday there will be an “uptick” in American casualties in Afghanistan as the the United States military increases its presence in that war, which he characterized as “a real mess.”

Mr. Biden, in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” conducted from his home in Wilmington, Del., said the situation there has deteriorated.

He blamed a “failure to provide sufficient resources, economic, political and military, as well as failure to get a coherent policy among our allies, economically and politically, and in terms of the military resources.”

He said corruption is “rife” since the Taliban is in “effective control of significant parts of the country they were not before” and because of the opium and heroin drug trade.

“The bottom line here is, we”ve inherited a real mess. We’re about to go in and try to essentially reclaim territory that’s been effectively lost,” Mr. Biden said. “There are going to be some additional military forces. There are going to be additional efforts to train their police and to train their Afghan army. And all of that means we’re going to be engaging the enemy more now.”

CBS host Bob Schieffer asked whether that means more American casualties should be expected.

“I hate so say it, but yes, I think there will be. There will be an uptick. Because as the commander in Afghanistan said, he said, ‘Joe, we will get this done, but we’re going to be engaging the enemy much more,’ ” the vice president said.

The short interview, his 53rd appearance on the program, covered his role as the new vice president, his relationship with President Obama and a discussion of economic challenges.

Mr. Schieffer asked how Mr. Biden approaches the job compared with the powerful role forged by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I don’t see myself as the deputy president,” Mr. Biden said.

He said he has an agreement with Mr. Obama that he will be “available for every single major decision that he makes … not for me to make decisions; for me to give the best advice that I can give.”

Mr. Biden said it’s worked out well so far.

“Hopefully, I can help shape policy with him. Hopefully, I’m … the last person in the room with every important decision he makes,” he said. “So that’s what I view my role to be, a confidant, an adviser, essentially the last guy in the room when he makes these critical decisions.”

Mr. Schieffer asked whether it was tough for the notoriously loquacious former senator to take a back seat when it comes to talking.

“I am not the president, I am the vice president,” Mr. Biden said. “I may have strongly held views the president may not have … that should be done between us, Mr. Biden said, adding, “But yes, the bottom line is, it’s harder.”

The vice president said the economy is “getting worse every day” and the Obama administration’s goal is to “get money out the door as rapidly as you can.”

Mr. Biden said the president’s executive order to close the federal detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within one year is “very complicated” and the White House legal team is “going one prisoner at a time.”

He said people must be patient as they work out the details, but added: “Definitely it’s closing, period.”

He said the prison has become a “symbol” that has “grown terrorist organizations.”

He said the prisoners would not be released in the United States and most likely would be sent to their countries of origin or another country.

“It’s going to be hard. There’s nothing easy about this,” he said. “These are really difficult decisions to be made.”

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he is concerned about the plan to close Guantanamo.

“It keeps a campaign promise but may be irresponsible,” he said.

On CBS, Mr. Biden declined to speak about drones in Pakistan, saying it was “not appropriate” to do so. He also quoted Mr. Obama from the campaign trail that he would not hesitate to strike “if there is an actionable target of high-level al Qaeda personnel.”

Mr. Schieffer noted it was unusual that Mr. Biden was spending his first weekend as vice president in his home state instead of in his new residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Northwest.

The vice president, who commuted home to Delaware more than 7,000 times during his 36 years in the Senate, said he was visiting his mother, Jean Biden.

“I told her I’d get home as much as I can. I can’t convince her to move to Washington,” he said, adding he didn’t mind because “it’s a short hop.”

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