This post has been updated with The Post's reporting.
President Trump is expected to announce a limited troop increase as a part of his new strategy in Afghanistan. And as many were quick to point out, that's a big flip-flop for a man who for years called for withdrawal from that war.
Here are a Baker's Dozen worth of examples from Trump's Twitter feed:
But here's the thing: This is actually not that much of a flip-flop from presidential candidate Donald Trump. Despite his penchant for making promises he couldn't keep, Trump actually acknowledged early in his 2016 campaign that he wouldn't immediately withdraw from Afghanistan if he became president. Trump occasionally referred to the money wasted in Afghanistan and talked about how the U.S. should mine it for minerals to recoup the costs of the war, but he basically abandoned the withdrawal talk early on.
“We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place,” Trump told CNN in October 2015. “It's a mess. It's a mess, and at this point we probably have to because that thing will collapse in about two seconds after they leave. … I would leave the troops there begrudgingly. Believe me, I’m not happy about it.”
By March 6, 2016, he said at a debate in Detroit that “you have to stay in Afghanistan for a while, because of the fact that you're right next to Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons, and we have to protect that. Nuclear weapons change the game.”
That said, the apparent ramping up of the effort in Afghanistan is the latest example of a much bigger flip-flop for now-President Trump: a tonal and philosophical one. Despite his more cautious tone on Afghanistan as a candidate, this is a president who led us to believe — repeatedly — that he was a noninterventionist. He wanted to rebuild America first and get us out of foreign entanglements.
Instead, we have seen military strikes in Syria, an escalating series of threats with North Korea, an odd threat of military intervention in Venezuela, and now a slight ramping up of a war that Trump has long decried as a waste of lives and treasure.
The popularity of the Syria strikes and the circumstances that birthed them — its government using chemical weapons on its own people — obscured what a big flip-flop it was at the time and seemed to excuse that fact in people's minds. But what we've seen in the last few weeks makes clear this is not the dovish candidate we saw on the campaign trail; this is a president who will threaten and escalate when he sees the need to. And now that he's actually president, he's seeing plenty of need to.
In some ways, Trump's evolution on this mirrors that of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who promised to end the war in Afghanistan during his presidency and failed to deliver on it. Earlier in his presidency, Obama also signed off on a troop “surge.” It's really no surprise that a politician would see their preconceptions about foreign policy change upon inheriting the “commander in chief” title. (FiveThirtyEight notes this goes back much further than Obama.)
But on foreign policy, we are confronting perhaps the most serious and far-reaching flip-flop of Trump's presidency. It may not be a huge flip-flop on Afghanistan specifically, but it's the continuation of a huge one overall — especially considering the concerns people have about Trump's temperament and what it could lead to.