US President Donald Trump, while maintaining that he wants the US to “just get out” of the 18-year mire of a campaign in Afghanistan, has now said he won’t do that after all – leaving behind a “very strong” intelligence presence.
In an interview to Fox News’ ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ aired on Monday, Trump said that he still wanted to pull US troops out of Afghanistan, in line with his previous pledge, but cannot do so since the country has turned into a breeding ground for terrorists in the wake of the US intervention in 2001.
“Look, I would like to just get out. The problem is it just seems to be a lab for terrorists, I call it a Harvard of Terrorists,”Trump told host Tucker Carlson.
Pressed on whether he plans to “be getting out entirely,” Trump echoed the argument made by his Republican predecessor George W. Bush, who started what has become the longest war in US history.
America has lost close to 2,500 people and nearly a trillion dollars to the conflict, without coming anywhere near stamping out the Taliban, which, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) this year, controls just under half of the country’s territory.
“You know, no matter how you feel, but if you are standing there near to some very talented military people saying: ‘I would rather attack them over there, than have them hit us over here and fight them on our land’ – that’s something you have to think about,“ Trump said.
For that purpose, Trump said the US would be leaving “very strong intelligence” in Afghanistan. “Far more than you would normally think,” he told Carlson without elaborating.
Back in 2007, Bush insisted that there was “one principle of which every member of every party should be able to agree on,” and that is that the US has “got to fight the terrorists overseas, so we don’t have to face them at home again.”
While agreeing with Bush’s interventionist agenda, even though it appears to contradict his own ‘America First’ motto, Trump lamented the US’ self-imposed role of the world policeman.
“We are the policeman for the whole world. If you look at Russia, Russia doesn’t police the world. They police Russia. You look at China, they don’t police, they do not have the troops everywhere,” he said.
There have been hopes that the ongoing US-Taliban talks initiated by the Trump administration would pave the way for a peace deal between the militants and Kabul, and eventually result in the withdrawal of the US troops. The latest, and seventh, round of talks kicked off on Saturday in Qatar, but so far the negotiations have done little to placate the deadly violence that claimed three US soldiers last week, bringing the US death toll in the country to 10 this year.
Despite the slow pace of negotiations and a spike in violence on the ground, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that he looks forward to brokering a peace deal in Afghanistan “before September 1.”