For years as a reality TV star, Donald Trump demanded that the United States leave Afghanistan. Among other things, he said that the U.S. had “wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure” and “wasted lives” there, that the war was “nonsense,” and that instead we should “rebuild the USA.”
On Monday night, as president, Trump is expected to announce that he’s sending several thousand more American troops to fight in the 16-year war.
There are currently about 8,400 U.S. soldiers stationed there, as well as approximately 6,000 from other members of NATO. The number of American troops in Afghanistan peaked at 100,000 in 2011. A total of 3,539 coalition soldiers have died during the war.
Afghanistan was barely mentioned during the 2016 presidential campaign. The GOP platform did not say much on the subject. “A Republican president will work with all regional leaders to restore mutual trust,” it read. Trump said nothing about it during his convention and inaugural speeches, and essentially nothing in his campaign book, “Crippled America.”
During an October 2015 interview with CNN, Trump was asked whether he believed “that American boots should stay on the ground in Afghanistan.” He replied, “We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place.” He added: “Are they going to be there for the next 200 years? At some point, what’s going on?”
However, he did qualify his statement. “I would leave the troops there, begrudgingly,” he said. “You probably have to because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave.” (A few weeks later Trump denied he’d said that the Afghanistan war was a mistake.)
Below, in reverse chronological order, are Trump’s statements on Twitter and television calling for the U.S. to withdraw.
Do not allow our very stupid leaders to sign a deal that keeps us in Afghanistan through 2024-with all costs by U.S.A. MAKE AMERICA GREAT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2013
We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let's get out!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2013
We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives. If we have to go back in, we go in hard & quick. Rebuild the US first.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2013
I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money -- rebuild the U.S.!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2013
Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2013
Karzai of Afghanistan is not sticking with our signed agreement. They are dropping us like dopes. Get out now and re-build U.S.!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2012
84% of US troops wounded & 70% of our brave men & women killed in Afghanistan have all come under Obama. Time to get out of there.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2012
Why are we continuing to train these Afghanis who then shoot our soldiers in the back? Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2012
Perhaps the clearest example of Trump’s former certainty about the need for withdrawal came in a March 2012 update to the video blog he used to promote “The Celebrity Apprentice” and burnish his own credentials as a political thinker.
“Afghanistan is a total and complete disaster,” Trump said in the first seconds of that vlog post (which was deleted from the Trump Organization’s YouTube channel after the 2016 election, but preserved by The Intercept).
“Let’s get with it, get out of Afghanistan,” Trump argued then. “We’ve wasted billions and billions of dollars, and more importantly, thousands and thousands of lives — not to mention all of these young men and women that come home and they really have problems.”
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.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2012
In this last tweet, Trump linked to a Fox and Friends interview in which he said, “What are we doing there? These people hate us. As soon as we leave, it’s all going to blow up anyway. And you say, ‘What are we doing there?’ We’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars, trillions of dollars on this nonsense. … What are we doing? We’re a debtor nation. We can’t build our own schools, yet we build schools in Afghanistan.”
On CNN, Trump declared that the U.S. should “get out” of Afghanistan, adding, “We have to rebuild our country. We’re rebuilding. You know, you go to Afghanistan. There is a school. It gets blown up. We rebuild it. We build a road to the school. They both get blown up. We rebuild. In the meantime, if you want to build a school in Brooklyn or Iowa or California, you can’t build them.”
When will we stop wasting our money on rebuilding Afghanistan? We must rebuild our country first.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2011