Former President Donald Trump slammed the Biden administration on Sunday for not withdrawing troops earlier and using Sept. 11 for something other than a “day of reflection.”
His comments follow President Joe Biden‘s decision earlier in the week to phase out U.S. forces in the embattled region by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Democrat’s move broke with a Trump-era agreement signed between Trump and the Taliban that required the full U.S. troop withdrawal by May 1.
“I wish Joe Biden wouldn’t use September 11th as the date to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, for two reasons,” Trump said in an email statement. “First, we can and should get out earlier. Nineteen years is enough, in fact, far too much and way too long. I made early withdraw possible by already pulling much of our billions of dollars of equipment out and, more importantly, reducing our military presence to less than 2,000 troops from the 16,000 level that was there (likewise in Iraq, and zero troops in Syria except for the area where we KEPT THE OIL).”
“Secondly, September 11th represents a very sad event and period for our Country and should remain a day of reflection and remembrance honoring those great souls we lost,” he continued. “Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do. I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible.”
Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan defended the president’s announcement on Sunday but said he “can’t make any guarantees” on whether the Islamic State will grow in power once U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan in the coming months.
“I can’t make any guarantees about what will happen inside the country. No one can,” Sullivan told Fox News‘s Chris Wallace. “All the United States could do is provide the Afghan security forces, the Afghan government, and the Afghan people resources and capabilities, training and equipping their forces, providing assistance to their government. We have done that, and now, it is time for American troops to come home and the Afghan people to step up to defend their own country.”
At the time of his announcement, the president attempted to justify his decision by indicating terrorist threats have “become more dispersed, metastasizing around the globe” in Syria, Iraq, Africa, and Asia, adding that it “makes little sense” to focus troops in Afghanistan when threats are present elsewhere.
“With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country at a cost of billions each year makes little sense to me and to our leaders,” Biden said. “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result.”
The U.S. maintains roughly 2,500 troops and another 1,000 special forces in Afghanistan, working to root out terrorists and train Afghan security forces. NATO and partner forces provide another 7,000 troops and is expected to extract its forces per the Biden agreement.