Contrary to a series of past statements on the issue, President Donald Trump said Monday that the U.S. military “should never ever have left” Iraq in 2011.
“Certainly we shouldn’t have left. We should never ever have left,” Trump told Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the White House. “And a vacuum was created, and we discussed what happened.”
“But we’ll spend a lot of time with you, with your group, and thank you all very much for being here, we appreciate it,” Trump continued. “And we will figure something out. Our main thrust is we have to get rid of ISIS. We’re going to get rid of ISIS. It will happen, it’s happening right now.”
Trump has a rich history of changing opinions on the war in Iraq. He was for the United States’ 2003 invasion of the country before his opinion changed somewhat, first evidenced in a 2004 Esquire interview (“Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we’re in. I would never have handled it that way.”)
In 2007, he said the United States should simply “get out.”
“Declare victory and leave,” he told CNN.
In 2008, he told GQ, in an interview surfaced by BuzzFeed: “I’d get out of Iraq right now.”
In 2011, according to the same BuzzFeed report, he told CNN’s Piers Morgan that he would get U.S. troops in Iraq “out real fast.”
CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, who authored BuzzFeed’s report, claimed on Twitter Monday that he had found audio of Trump advocating for a quicker withdrawal than Obama’s as late as 2014.
I actually just listened to Trump on Howard Stern in 2014 blasting Obama for not leaving Iraq *sooner* https://t.co/qLzbyGthZp
— andrew kaczynski ? (@KFILE) March 20, 2017
In November 2008, the United States government, under then-President George W. Bush, signed off on a Status of Forces Agreement, which specified that all U.S. forces would withdraw from Iraq “no later than December 31, 2011.”