President Donald Trump laid out his military strategy for the war in Afghanistan Monday night, saying in his first presidential prime time address that he will not withdraw troops from the region, despite years of advocating for such action.
Trump did not say how many troops he’ll have in the country, nor did he offer a time frame for when the troops would leave, vowing not to “talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities,” which he called “counterproductive.”
However, he said, pulling out of Afghanistan would “create a vacuum that terrorists — including ISIS and Al Qaeda — would instantly fill, just as happened before Sept. 11.”
Trump did say the U.S. “will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in far away lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over.”
He said that the U.S. will work to “protect our shared interests” and “pursue common goals that allow our children to live better lives.”
“Our troops will fight to win,” Trump said.
Trump acknowledged in his speech that his decision to increase troop levels is a complete reversal on what he’s advocated — both before and during his presidential run.
“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” Trump said. “But all of my life I heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”
Trump had made blunt declarations that troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan numerous times in the past. In a Joint Address to Congress back in February, he bemoaned the amount of money the U.S. has spent in the war in Afghanistan, which he said would have been better spent on U.S. infrastructure.
“America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this $6 trillion we could have rebuilt our country — twice,” Trump said.
Before entering the political spectrum, Trump tweeted numerous times about his opposition to spending money on the Middle East conflict.
“It is time to get out of Afghanistan. We are building roads and schools for people that hate us. It is not in our national interests,” Trump tweeted in February 2012.
“Can you believe that the Afghan war is our ‘longest war’ ever — bring our troops home, rebuild the U.S., make America great again,” Trump tweeted in January 2013.