In the years leading up to his election, President Trump repeatedly panned the Afghan War, calling for an end to the conflict, and complaining that the US had been wasting billions of dollars in the conflict since 2001 that could be better spent domestically.
Though President Trump has never formally disavowed those stated positions, his actual policy within Afghanistan has been starkly different, mostly a continuation of the escalations and nation-building that he’d long criticized from others.
During his August escalation speech, Trump conceded that his first instinct was to pull out of Afghanistan, but that policy changes once you’re in the Oval Office, which is the closest we’ve gotten to a revision in his aims, but even this came without much of an explanation of why the Afghan War went from being an embarrassing mistake to something he’s eager to keep doubling down on.
Military commanders have certainly played a part in this change, as they’ve given the impression that massive territory losses amounted to a “stalemate” which could be readily reversed. Commanders have even tried to spin the situation as already improving since the escalation was announced.
Yet the reality is that the US military has been bullish on the Afghan War for a solid 16 years now, predicting an imminent turnaround pretty much at every time in the entire occupation, despite any decisive changes on the ground ever happening.