Feb 06, 2019

State of the Union: On foreign policy, a link between Trump and Obama, CNN.com

State of the Union: On foreign policy, a link between Trump and Obama

Peter Bergen

Peter Bergen

If there was an underlying theme in President Trump's State of the Union about America's engagement in the world you could sum it up in one word: Withdrawal.

Trump pointed to the nearly 7,000 American servicemen killed in the United States' long post-9/11 wars and the more than 50,000 who have been badly wounded. He also asserted an exaggerated figure that the US has "spent more than 7 trillion dollars in the Middle East."

The President said that some 2,000 US soldiers in Syria are being withdrawn now that ISIS has been largely been evicted from the territory it held there.

Trump also confirmed that his administration "is holding constructive talks with...the Taliban." Progress in those negotiations, Trump said, would enable a drawdown of the estimated 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan, leaving some kind of residual force to focus on "counterterrorism."

All of this is consistent with what Trump said during the presidential campaign when he repeatedly complained about the trillion of dollars that the US. had spent on its post-9/11 wars in the greater Middle East.

Even before he started campaigning, Trump had tweeted in 2013, "Let's get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA."

Once you get past their rhetorically quite different styles this is an important commonality between President Barack Obama and Trump: Both saw them themselves as elected to get the United States out of the seemingly endless, expensive post-9/11 wars.

Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, a vice president at New America and professor of practice at Arizona State University. He has reported from Afghanistan for two and a half decades and is the co-editor of "Talibanistan: Negotiating the Borders Between Terror, Politics, and Religion."