Former White House Political Director to President George W. Bush and Fox News contributor Matt Schlapp weighed in on the long-time debate surrounding U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as the country marked the 18th year since the devastating 9-11 terrorist attacks last week.
Joining a roundtable of D.C. insiders, Schlapp said it became clear to him early on that U.S. troops would not immediately return home, after President George W. Bush announced that U.S.and British troops would begin striking Afghanistan for harboring the Al Qaeda terrorists blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks, and would embark on the search for the man responsible, Usama Bin Laden.
"I think a lot of Americans thought we would strike, we would take out the Taliban, we would go after the terrorists responsible for this terrible attack on our country, and we would come back," said Schlapp on Fox Nation's "Wise Guys".
"But, I remember once sitting in a meeting in the White House... and it became clear that their impression is that we were never leaving, that they would be an occupying force forever--and I don't know if the American people ever fully grasped that," he said.
Following years of debate on the controversial subject, President Obama began to explore options for a complete military withdrawal in 2014 but ultimately deemed the situation too fragile, ordering many troops to remain in the dangerous territory.
President Trump has long been calling for the removal of U.S. troops, 14,000 of which currently remain in the region.
Last Saturday, Trump announced that he had canceled a secret meeting with Taliban and Afghan officials at Camp David to discuss the matter, following a recent attack that killed an American soldier.
“[I]n order to build false leverage," Trump tweeted, "they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great-great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately canceled the meeting and called off peace negotiations. What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position?”
A week later, the President announced that the son of Usama bin Laden, Hamza, had been killed in a recent counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region. Hamza bin Laden had been a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda, the terror group his father formerly led.
Schlapp said that while his "first instinct" was to agree with the general opinion and the urgency with which to bring U.S. troops home, the U.S. presence in the region represents a larger issue.
"We have to understand, the policy was that if we don't take care of it over there, it does come here," he said, referring to extremism within the United States.
"We can see even with the sentiments coming out of Congress, that there is a growing acceptance to anti-semitism, anti-Americanism that's in our bloodstream, and our systems -- you can see with the southern border -- it's porous, people are taking advantage of our freedoms...and we're very vulnerable to Islamic terrorists," said Schlapp.
Despite his plan to withdraw the majority of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, Trump said he intends to keep a light footprint in the region-- approximately 8,600 U.S. forces there for the foreseeable future, pending the outcome of U.S. peace talks with the Taliban, which are at an impasse for the time being.
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