President Donald Trump told Fox News host Tucker Carlson he would prefer “to just get out” of Afghanistan, but the fact that it is a “lab for terrorists” makes it difficult to withdraw completely.
During an interview that aired Monday night on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the president responded to Carlson’s question about “how much longer” U.S. troops would stay in the country.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” Trump said. “I’ve wanted to pull them out. And you know, I have pulled a lot out. We were at 16,000. We’re down to about 9,000, which a lot of people don’t know.”
After praising the decimation of the ISIS “Caliphate,” Trump noted the length of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
With Afghanistan, it’s 19 years and we should not have been there 19 years and if we were, you know, it would be nice to fight to win. But it’s just 19 years. They’re building hotels, we are. I mean, we had a Holiday Inn that cost numbers that would be ten times what it should have cost.
They built a gas station, a pretty famous deal where it costs like $80 million to build a gas station.
“And we have the greatest fighters in the world,” he continued. “But when you’re 19 years, you’re really becoming like a police force. So we have pulled it back. We’re actually negotiating with various people. But we want to get out. We want to get out of a lot of areas that we’re in. We shouldn’t be there. We shouldn’t be there. We’re the policeman for the whole world.” (RELATED: President Trump To Slice Afghanistan Troop Levels To Lowest In History)
“Could you see getting out entirely?” asked Carlson.
“I’ll tell you the problem is, look, I would like to just get out,” said Trump. “The problem is, it just seems to be a lab for terrorists. It seems — I call it the Harvard of terrorists. When you look at the World Trade Center, they were trained. They didn’t — by the way, they attacked the wrong country. They didn’t come from Iraq, all right. They came from various other countries. But they all formed in Afghanistan, and it’s probably because it’s at the base of so many countries, but they all formed and it’s rough mountains and you get a lot of — you know, you get a lot of good hiding places.”
The president told Carlson he would “leave very strong intelligence there” to “watch,” and that while he agreed in general with the Fox News hosts’ non-interventionist position, it would also be difficult to entirely ignore the advice of generals who say things like, “Sir, I’d rather attack them over there than attack them in our land.”
“That’s always a very tough decision, you know, with what happened with the World Trade Center,” said the president. “It’s something you always have to think about.
A Charles Koch Institute poll conducted last October showed a majority of U.S. military veterans were skeptical about continued United States involvement in the Afghan War.