US Democrats clash on Middle East in presidential debate as Biden insists on keeping troops
The debate was dominated by foreign policy in the wake of the US killing of General Qasem Soleimani and US President Donald Trump's erratic policies in the region.
Joe Biden, who served as Barack Obama's Vice President from 2009 to 2016, said that he would keep US troops in the Middle East.
"I think it's a mistake to pull out the small number of troops that are there now to deal with ISIS. What's happened is, now that he's gone ahead, the president and started this whole process moving, what's happening?
"ISIS is going to reconstitute itself. We're in a position where we have to pull our forces out. Americans have to leave the entire region. And quite frankly, I think [Trump has] flat-out lied about saying that the reason he went after -- the reason he made the strike was because our embassies were about to be bombed," Biden added, in a reference to Trump's authorisation of the strike that killed Soleimani.
Biden also said that US troops should continue to patrol the Gulf.
Following Soleimani's death, the US said it would deploy nearly 3,000 more troops to the Middle East.
However, just three months ago US President Trump announced that he would pull out all the 1,000 US troops in Syria, to the outrage of the US's erstwhile Syrian Kurdish allies, who were attacked by Turkey after the pullout was announced.
Trump later backtracked and said that some US troops would stay in Syria to guard oil fields. Trump also threatened Iraq with sanctions after the Iraqi parliament called for the withdrawal of US troops from that country after Soleimani's assassination.
Biden's position was opposed by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, two candidates considered to be on the left of the Democratic Party.
Senator Warren said that she wanted "all combat troops" out of the Middle East, including those in Afghanistan.
"We've turned the corner so many times [in Afghanistan] we're going in circles in these regions. This has got to stop," she said. "It's time to get our combat troops home."
There was speculation as to what she meant by "combat troops" with the website Vox saying that it was unlikely that she wanted every single US soldier to return home from the region.
Senator Bernie Sanders echoed Warren's position. "The American people are sick and tired of endless wars that have cost us trillions of dollars," he said.
Another candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar, took a centrist position. "I would leave some troops [in the Middle East], but not at the level that Donald Trump is taking us right now," she said. "Afghanistan, I have long wanted to bring our troops home. I would do that. Some would remain for counterterrorism and training."