- The Washington Times - Monday, October 19, 2020

It would be a “huge mistake” to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan by next year, as previously suggested by President Trump, former White House National Security Adviser John R. Bolton said Monday.

In his surprise tweet earlier this month, Mr. Trump said, “We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas.”

A February peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban called for a phased U.S. drawdown through the middle of next year if the Taliban made good on certain promises. But Mr. Trump’s tweet sowed confusion among military and national security leaders as his top adviser said the year-end goal was 2,500 troops, while the Pentagon said it was still operating on the original schedule of an extended phase-out.

“I think the advantage of keeping a substantial American force, not only for counterterrorism purposes but for others in Afghanistan, should be clear by now, although obviously, it isn’t,” Mr. Bolton said during an event hosted by the Atlantic Council.

“It’s not that we’re eager to have wars go on forever,” he continued, in response to a question by The Washington Times. “We don’t get to decide that alone, however.”

Mr. Bolton, who served as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser until last September, said that if having forces deployed abroad proves to provide better defensive potential, “then it’s in our interest to do it.”

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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