Trump Acknowledges He’s Shifted From His ‘Original Instinct’ On Afghanistan

President Donald Trump speaks at Fort Myer in Arlington Va., Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, during a Presidential Address to the Nation about a strategy he believes will best position the U.S. to eventually declare victory in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Carolyn Kaster/AP

President Donald Trump on Monday acknowledged that his newly announced strategy for the war in Afghanistan was at odds with his previous statements on the subject.

“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” Trump said in a nationally televised address at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. “But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

In 2013 and 2014, Trump called for a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and harshly criticized former President Barack Obama’s strategy.

Trump said in his address that in studying the conflict, he came to “three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.”

“First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made,” Trump said.

His second conclusion, Trump said, was that “the consequences of a rapid exit” would be “both predictable and unacceptable.”

“A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before Sept. 11,” he said. “Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.”

Trump lamented that when he entered office, he “was given a bad and very complex hand,” and said his decisions would mean U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan would “change dramatically.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Esme Cribb is a newswriter for TPM in New York City. She can be found on Twitter @emquiry and reached by email at esme@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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