The 9/11 terrorist attacks were used as grounds for the United States to begin airstrikes in October 2001 and ultimately send ground troops to Afghanistan in an attempt to catch Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda operatives behind the attacks. Bush would leave the White House in January 2009 with 36,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan and an additional 32,000 in NATO forces. Obama spent his first few years in office expanding the United States' role in the war and increasing ground troops to as many as 100,000 troops on the ground in August 2010. Shortly after bin Laden was found in Pakistan and killed by Navy Seals in May 2011, Obama announced a withdrawal plan, reducing troops to 77,000 in 2012, 46,000 in December 2013, and down to about 9,800 troops in March 2015. Later that year Obama rescinded his initial promise for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, and he left office with 8,400 US troops on the ground in Afghanistan and about three times as many contractors. Now with Donald Trump serving as commander in chief, the Pentagon and Trump administration are leaning toward increasing US troops on the ground as the administration has quietly added a few hundred troops on the ground in Syria.
Democracy Now! reported on May 9, "in Washington, DC, members of the Trump administration and Pentagon officials are pushing for the deployment of at least 3,000 more US troops to Afghanistan and the relaxation of restrictions on launching airstrikes there." CNN reported that number could be as high as 5,000, and that the Pentagon is requesting authority to deploy more troops without any quota limit.
The Trump administration is expected to make their decision later this month whether to continue prolonging "the forever war," what has already been the longest war in United States history going into its 16th year. Based on its decision to drop a MOAB, the United States' most powerful non-nuclear bomb on the country, in April 2017, the Trump administration appears eager to push the United States back further into the war in Afghanistan.
"Without a clear objective and mission, and therefore a clear exit strategy, it doesn't make sense to continue to pour manpower, military assets, and billions of dollars into Afghanistan," said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), an Iraq War veteran and currently serving as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, in a statement. In 2013, she visited Afghanistan, where she insisted stability in the country can only be achieved by the Afghan people themselves. "We need to end our nation-building efforts abroad and instead rebuild our own country." The Watson Institute at Brown University estimates that the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have cost nearly $5 trillion so far, with the interest alone from the loans taken out to pay for the wars expected to reach over $7.9 trillion in 2053.
As a presidential candidate, Trump tried to brand himself as someone who would steer US foreign policy away from the interventionism that has traditionally mandated it. Instead, he's falling in line with the military industrial complex and war hawks who would like to see the United States continue its role in perpetual war in the Middle East.