In a 2017 speech to American troops, Former President Donald Trump warned that a “hasty” withdrawal from Afghanistan “would create a vacuum that terrorists…would instantly fill,” including ISIS and al Qaeda.
“First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives,” Trump said at the time. “The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.”
“Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists,” he continued. “A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.”
Trump further warned that a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan could turn out like the Iraq withdrawal in 2011, which contributed to the rapid growth of ISIS.
“The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks,” Trump cautioned. “We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.”
Trump said the security threats in Afghanistan and the broader region are “immense,” noting that 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, making it the highest regional concentration in the world.
“No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions,” Trump said, adding, “We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now — the threats we face, and the confronting of all of the problems of today, and extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal.”
“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter,” Trump continued. “Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”