An Airman observes an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan on February 9, 2018.
U.S. Army photo
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump, who campaigned to end "ridiculous endless wars" in the Middle East in 2016, went on Twitter Wednesday to announce that the American forces currently serving in Afghanistan will be home by Christmas.
It was unclear whether Trump, who is aiming for re-election next month, tweeted an order or reiterated a long-standing election promise to appeal to voters.
The Taliban welcomed Trump's announcement and said it was a positive step towards a peace deal.
Earlier this year, the United States signed a peace agreement with the Taliban that would initiate a permanent ceasefire and reduce the US military's footprint from about 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July. And by May 2021, all foreign forces would leave the war-torn country.
Trump's tweet Wednesday came on the 19th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan that has turned into America's longest running conflict.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump's national security adviser gave a more conservative schedule for downsizing the U.S. armed forces.
"When President Trump took office, there were over 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan," said Robert O'Brien in a national security speech at the University of Nevada Law School in Las Vegas.
"To date there are fewer than 5,000 and by early next year there will be 2,500," he said.
The National Security Council, White House and Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on the clarity of the government mobilization timetable in Afghanistan.
Trump, currently locked in the White House for treatment after testing positive for the coronavirus, previously ordered the Pentagon to reduce U.S. forces in conflict areas.
In 2018, Trump tweeted that the United States was pulling troops out of Syria, causing a shock wave through the Pentagon and partly contributing to the resignation of then Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Trump later overturned his decision to withdraw from Syria.
In May, Trump complained on Twitter that America's role in Afghanistan had been reduced to a "police force" rather than a "combat force".
When asked about the tweet from reporters during an event at the White House, Trump said the US could return to Afghanistan if necessary.
"We can always go back if we have to. If we have to go back, we will go back and romp again," Trump said in May.
The collective wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost US taxpayers more than $ 1.57 trillion since September 11, 2001, according to a Department of Defense report.
Current U.S. military operations, dubbed Operation Freedom & # 39; s Sentinel in Afghanistan, Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq, and Operation Noble Eagle, made up $ 266 billion of that total.
Of the three ongoing operations, Freedom & # 39; s Sentinel makes up the lion's share of the cost at $ 193 billion.