In an interview with CBS News, US President Donald Trump was asked whether there was a scenario where he would keep troops in Afghanistan in a smaller number, to which he hinted that he will.
“And I’ll leave intelligence there. Real intelligence, by the way. I’ll leave intelligence there and if I see nests forming, I’ll do something about it. But for us to be spending 51 billion dollars, like last year, or if you average the cost it’s- I mean you’re talking about numbers that nobody’s ever heard of before,” he explained.
Trump also described why he remarked about not following the suggestions of the intelligence officials (national intelligence director and CIA director) as he shunned their reports on necessity of keeping the troops in Afghanistan and Syria, “I think- let me just say it wasn’t so much a report. It was the questions and answers as the report was submitted and they were asked questions and answers. We’ve done an incredible job with Syria. When I took over Syria it was infested with ISIS. It was all over the place. And now you have very little ISIS and you have the caliphate almost knocked out. We will be announcing in the not too distant future 100 percent of the caliphate which is the area- the land- the area- 100. We’re at 99 percent right now, we’ll be at 100. When I took it over it was a disaster.”
He said “I think we’ve done a great job with that [war]. At the same time, at a certain point, we want to bring our people back home. If you look at Afghanistan we’re going in very soon we’ll be going into our 19th year spending 50 billion dollars a year. Now if you go back and look at any of my campaign speeches or rallies, I talked about it all the time.”
Recently in a hearing of the Senate Select Committee, the director of US national intelligence said that ISIS still has strongholds in Iraq and Syria, and Trump expressed that “But you’re not going to keep armies there because you have a few people. Or you even have fairly reasonable numbers of people. We’ve been there for many, many years. We were supposed to be in Syria for four months. We’ve been there for years. We have been in Afghanistan for 19 years. And by the way, I’ve been hitting very hard in Afghanistan and now we’re negotiating with the Taliban. We’ll see what happens, who knows.”
On being asked how reliable it is to trust the Taliban and on a realistic possibility of brokering a deal, he gave a rather unclear response by saying that the troops are fighting well, “We got to get out of these endless wars and bring our folks back home.”
He assured that there will be intelligence left and that “We’re going to be watching, and watching closely.”
On facing a concern regarding a possibility of vacuum being left in the region for outfits like Al-Qaeda, or ISIS to return after troop pullout, Trump said that “We’ll come back if we have to.”
He explained, “We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly, and I’m not leaving. We have a base in Iraq and the base is a fantastic edifice. I mean I was there recently, and I couldn’t believe the money that was spent on these massive runways. And these- I’ve rarely seen anything like it. And it’s there. And we’ll be there. And frankly, we’re hitting the caliphate from Iraq and as we slowly withdraw from Syria.”