Here’s What Trump Said About Afghanistan on the Campaign Trail: It’s a ‘Mess’

Here’s some background on Trump’s flip-flopping before he addresses the nation Monday night

Last Updated: August 21, 2017 @ 2:50 PM

President Donald Trump will address the nation Monday night to announce his strategy for Afghanistan from Fort Myer, Virginia.

A strategy was initially going to be decided on in May, ahead of Trump’s first NATO meeting. Then, Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress a decision would be made by mid-July. The final decision wasn’t made, however, until Friday, after the ousting of White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, and during a meeting with Trump’s national security team at Camp David.

There are so many questions: Will Trump increase or decrease troops overseas? Would he pull all 8,400 troops currently serving in Afghanistan? He gave Mattis clearance to increase troop numbers in June, but the Defense Secretary held off. “I was not willing to make significant troop lifts until we made certain we knew what was the strategy, what was the commitment going in,” he told reporters on Sunday.

Now that strategy is here. Trump is expected to ask the American people to “trust” him, as CNN reported Monday, after a week

We took a look back at what Trump said during the campaign about troops in Afghanistan and the nation’s longest-running war.

Trump has been calling to get troops out of Afghanistan for years. Long before the campaigning started for the 2016 election, Trump said on Twitter in 2012 that “Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home!” In 2013, he tweeted “We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives. If we have to go back in, we go in hard & quick. Rebuild the US first.”

It was even a topic on which he could find common ground with President Barack Obama, a man he famously believed was not born in the United States. “I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal,” he tweeted in 2013. “Why should we keep wasting our money–rebuild the U.S.!”

He denounced Obama in 2014, though, tweeting again about Afghanistan. “Now Obama is keeping our soldiers in Afghanistan for at least another year. He is losing two wars simultaneously,” he said.

Jumping to October 2015, Trump told CNN that the war in the Middle East was a “mess” and a “terrible mistake.”

“We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place. We had real brilliant thinkers that didn’t know what the hell they were doing,” he said. “And it’s a mess. It’s a mess. And at this point, you probably have to (stay) because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave. Just as I said that Iraq was going to collapse after we leave.”

A few days later, however, he backpedalled, saying that he was only taking about Iraq, and not Afghanistan.”I never said that. OK, wouldn’t matter, I never said it. Afghanistan is a different kettle,” he said. “Afghanistan is next to Pakistan, it’s an entry in. You have to be careful with the nuclear weapons. It’s all about the nuclear weapons. By the way, without the nukes, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

“Do I love anything about it? No. I think it’s important, number one, that we keep a presence there and ideally a presence of pretty much what they’re talking about — 5,000 soldiers.”

In the March 3, 2016, Republican debate moderated by Megyn Kelly, Trump addressed this flip-flopping. “Well, on Afghanistan, I did mean Iraq. I think you have to stay in Afghanistan for awhile, because of the fact that you’re right next to Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons, and we have to protect that. Nuclear weapons change the game,” he said.

The closest Trump came to addressing troops in Afghanistan in the first of three debates between himself and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was to say, during a conversation about Sean Hannity, that an article misquoted him. “And Sean Hannity said — and he called me the other day — and I spoke to him about it — he said you were totally against the war, because he was for the war,” Trump said. “But they did an article which had me totally against the war in Iraq… He and I used to have arguments about the war. I said, it’s a terrible and a stupid thing. It’s going to destabilize the Middle East. And that’s exactly what it’s done. It’s been a disaster.”

This was all in response to a question by moderator Lester Holt–which Trump cut off–about support Trump had for the war in 2002.

During the second debate between Clinton and Trump, Afghanistan wasn’t mentioned at all. In the third debate, Trump didn’t mention Afghanistan, but slammed Clinton for her time as Secretary of State when it came to Iraq. “We should never have been in Iraq, but once we were there, we should have never got out the way they wanted to get out,” he told moderator Chris Wallace.

Days after being inaugurated, Trump mentioned Afghanistan, but only to refer back to violence in Chicago. “”It is carnage. It’s horrible carnage. This is Afghanistan — is not like what’s happening in Chicago. People are being shot left and right,” he told ABC News’ David Muir.

Despite Trump’s history of saying the U.S. needs to get out of Afghanistan, reports are saying he will announce Monday night that he will approve 4,000 additional troops to be deployed.