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Trump Announces Plan to Withdraw Last Troops from Afghanistan by Christmas

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Trump Announces Plan to Withdraw Last Troops from Afghanistan by Christmas

2020-10-09 13:26:56

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: U.S. Army teaching Afghan police officer in Beshud, Afghanistan (Image: Public domain)

There seems to be a difference of opinion between Donald Trump and his latest national security adviser, Robert O'Brien. While the adviser is promising to reduce troops in Afghanistan by half by early next year, Trump is promising that the last troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by Christmas.

Is Trump just issuing more campaign banter? Four years ago he campaigned on ending "ridiculous endless wars" in the Middle East. On Wednesday he tweeted that the remaining troops in Afghanistan would be home by Christmas. But it's not known whether this was just more talking points he hopes will retain his base or whether this is something that has been agreed to by all interested parties.

The Taliban, however, took the step as a serious one and welcomed it, stating it was a step toward a peace agreement.

Already Trump had set a peace deal with the Taliban and would bring a permanent cease-fire and reduce the U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July and that they would completely leave by May 2021.

But on the 19th anniversary of the origins of the start of the war in Afghanistan, Trump was tweeting that troops would be completely vacated by the Christmas holiday.

It seems O'Brien is working more with the original agreement. "When President Trump took office, there were over 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan," he said in a speech at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas law school. "As of today, there are under 5,000, and that will go to 2,500 by early next year."

So who is right, O'Brian, who has stuck to the agree-upon timeline? Or Trump who promised the country would be opened up again by Easter?

Trump has been working on ending those wars for some time. He tweeted in 2018 that the United States would be withdrawing troops out of Syria. This was so upsetting to James Mattis, Trump's then-Defense secretary, that he resigned. Trump later changed his mind on the topic. 

Back in May Trump tweeted that the troops sent to Afghanistan were there as a "police force" and not a "fighting force." When asked about the tweet by reporters, he said the U.S. could always go back to Afghanistan if they needed to.

"We can always go back if we have to. If we have to go back, we'll go back, and we'll go back raging," he said. 

In total, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have cost the U.S. more than $1.57 trillion since 9-11, according to a Defense Department report. The current military operations in those nations account for $266 billion of that amount. Most of that cost is from Operation Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan, which has cost the U.S. the most at $193 billion.

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