President Donald Trump said during a Monday press conference that he and his top military leaders are at odds over U.S. conflicts abroad and that they dislike his opposition to ongoing wars.
In his White House remarks, Trump criticized his Democratic presidential candidate rival Joe Biden of having “sent our youth to fight in these crazy endless wars” and said it’s part of the reason senior Pentagon leaders may favor Biden over him. Trump said, “It’s one of the reasons the military — I’m not saying the military is in love with me; the soldiers are, the top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
“But,” Trump continued, “we’re getting out of the endless wars; you know how we’re we doing. We defeated 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate — 100 percent. When I was in — when I came in, it was a mess; it was all over. They have it, in a certain color, all ISIS. A year later, I said, ‘Where is it?’ ‘It’s all gone, sir. Because of you, it’s all gone,’ because of my philosophy. But all gone. And I said, ‘That’s good. Let’s bring our soldiers back home. Some people don’t like to come home. Some people like to continue to spend money.'”
Trump described the continuation of U.S. foreign conflicts as “One cold-hearted globalist betrayal after another.”
Trump’s allegation that Pentagon leaders would seek to perpetuate war to benefit military manufacturers appeared to resemble President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s remarks in his 1961 presidential farewell address warning, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
Trump’s remarks also came days before the 19-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which prompted the U.S. to launch the invasion of Afghanistan and the still-ongoing conflict in the country. Under Trump, the U.S. signed a peace agreement with the Taliban, which laid out a 14-month time frame for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan.
As of July, the U.S. had reduced its troop levels in Afghanistan from around 13,000 in February to around 8,600. In August, both Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. plans to further reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan to below 5,000 by the end of November. Trump suggested the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan could fall to around 4,000.
Recent reports have also suggested Trump is planning to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Iraq by a third, to around 3,500, which would place the number of troops to around the same level as seen near the start of U.S. counter-ISIS operations in 2015.