Leslie Cockburn Reveals Intention To Negotiate With Taliban, Criticizes Denver Riggleman’s Military Service In VA-5 Debate

"We have to negotiate with the Taliban and Pakistan in order to leave" the War in Afghanistan, said Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn, all the while criticizing Republican Denver Riggleman's military service, implying that he played a minor role.


Republican candidate Denver Riggleman and Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn sparred at a debate on Monday night in front of a crowd at Piedmont Virginia Community College. During the exchange between the two hopefuls to represent Virginia’s Fifth District, Cockburn came out in support of a U.S.-Taliban negotiation which she says will end the War in Afghanistan, all the while being highly critical of her Republican opponent’s military service.

When asked about the economic situation in the Central Virginia congressional district, Cockburn sidestepped the question to say, “I’d like to address the issue of Afghanistan.”

“I covered three different wars in Afghanistan,” she said, reiterating her investigative journalism experience in foreign wars.

“As for what should be done in Afghanistan right now, we’ve been there 17 years,” Cockburn said. “My friend John Sopko, who is the inspector general, tells us that we’ve spent nearly a trillion dollars on that war and we are definitely not winning it.”

“One problem is that the patron of the Taliban is Pakistan,” Cockburn added. “We have to negotiate with the Taliban and Pakistan in order to leave that war, and I think that this should be a matter of diplomacy, and it needs to happen now.”

She attacked Riggleman, an Air Force veteran, saying that “Denver was not in Afghanistan.” Cockburn explained that he was “3,000 miles away from Afghanistan,” where he was strategizing to conduct bombing missions in the country while at a U.S. naval base at Diego Garcia, implying that he played a minor role.

Furthermore, Cockburn said that Riggleman’s work was unsuccessful in pushing back Taliban forces.

“The bombings didn’t become successful until you had special forces on the ground calling in airstrikes,” she said.

Riggleman replied that he was happy to work with those on the ground in Afghanistan on the airstrikes and doesn’t need to defend his service.

“We worked with the joint forward air controllers in Afghanistan…it’s hard to answer this in a way that doesn’t sound emotional,” Riggleman said. “I’m not going to defend my military service because of what I’ve done.”

“Those JFAC [Joint Force Air Component] strikes on the caves? Yeah, that was us. But I do appreciate the try,” Riggleman responded to Cockburn.