Donald Trump has angered his own supporters by refusing to pull American troops out of Afghanistan.
The US president announced on Monday that he will increase the number of soldiers on the ground there, despite stating for years that withdrawal was the only option and leaving troops there was a ‘complete waste’.
Mr Trump made the announcement in a televised address at Fort Myer in Virginia, but would not reveal how many more troops he will send, what their objective will be and how long they will remain in Afghanistan.
It marks a significant U-turn for Mr Trump, who had previously criticised his predecessor, Barack Obama, for keeping American troops there.
We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let's get out!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2013
In a tweet on November 21, 2013, Mr Trump said: ‘We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!’
But yesterday, after admitting ‘my original instinct was to pull out’, Mr Trump announced an increase in troops and funding for the war in Afghanistan.
But many from Mr Trump’s own support base hit out at the move, angry that it detracts from his ‘America First’ pledge that got him to the White House in the first place.
Right-wing website Breitbart News, which has just welcomed back Mr Trump’s ousted strategist Steve Bannon to its fold, and has always backed the president, ran the headline, ‘America First? With Steve Bannon Out, Globalists Push For More War Abroad’.
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After the president’s speech, it ran another headline, ‘Unlimited War’, which was later removed.
Far right media personality and Trump supporter Mike Cernovich tweeted: ‘Why did we even have an election?’
And Republican senator Rand Paul said: ‘The mission in Afghanistan has lost its purpose and I think it is a terrible idea to send any more troops into that war.’
Why did we even have an election?
— Mike Cernovich (@Cernovich) August 22, 2017
Mr Trump said he is confident that Nato allies such as the UK will increase troops and funding for the war in Afghanistan, which has been running for almost 16 years.
His announcement appeared to support a Pentagon plan to shore up the Afghanistan government and end a stalemate with the Taliban by sending more forces.
In his speech, Mr Trump said: ‘From now on victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating Isis, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge,” he said.
‘We will ask our Nato allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own – we are confident they will.’
Addressing his apparent U-turn, Mr Trump said: ‘My original instinct was to pull out and historically I like following my instincts, but all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.’
There are about 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan and Pentagon officials had proposed sending in a further 4,000 to train Afghan forces and fight the Taliban and an affiliate of terror group Islamic State.
There are also about 500 British troops there and around a further 85 had been promised in non-combat roles.
Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: ‘The US commitment is very welcome. It’s in all our interests that Afghanistan becomes more prosperous and safer: that’s why we announced our own troop increase back in June.’