By any fair measure, there are very few policy areas Donald Trump has ever taken seriously. The former president's positions on key issues have repeatedly shifted with the winds, based largely on whatever he last saw on television or what he believed the people in front of him wanted to hear.
But one of the few areas in which the Republican has been relatively consistent has been his eagerness to end U.S. military deployments, especially in the Middle East. No one has ever accused Trump of being a "big thinker" on foreign policy or international affairs; the former president has struggled to explain why he's adopted the positions he's espoused; and his policies haven't always matched his rhetoric; but he's nevertheless been a leading voice for bringing troops home.
All of which made it a little weird to see Trump issue a written statement yesterday raising the prospect of going back into Afghanistan. After some routine whining about President Joe Biden — the Republican continues to condemn the way in which the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan, though he hasn't said why — the former president added:
"... ALL EQUIPMENT should be demanded to be immediately returned to the United States, and that includes every penny of the $85 billion dollars in cost. If it is not handed back, we should either go in with unequivocal Military force and get it, or at least bomb the hell out of it."
Right off the bat, the idea that the Taliban has "$85 billion dollars" in equipment isn't true, as the former president really ought to know.
It's also important to emphasize that at issue is military equipment that the United States provided to Afghan security forces over the course of many years. Those who've suggested that we should've reclaimed or destroyed the equipment as we began our exit are effectively arguing that we should've disarmed Afghanistan's military for what was expected to be a protracted conflict.
There's also the inconvenient detail that the Taliban cannot actually use much of the equipment it's now obtained.
But putting all of that aside, what's perhaps most notable was Trump floating the idea of the United States going back into Afghanistan "with unequivocal military force" — as if that would go well.
To be sure, there is literally no reason to believe such a scenario is likely to happen in reality. Biden has ended the war and withdrawn U.S. troops, and the odds of the administration deciding to redeploy forces, simply to reclaim equipment the Taliban can't use, are zero.
This doesn't change the fact, however, that Trump — among other things, a possible presidential contender in 2024 — has spent years saying he wants to get out of Afghanistan, only to suggest going back in now that Biden has gotten us out of Afghanistan.
It's hardly the first time the Republican has pushed an incoherent position, but it underscores a larger truth: Much of Trump's party also doesn't quite know what to say about the end of the war and the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Prominent GOP voices know they're outraged by Biden, but they're not altogether sure why, and when pressed for detailed alternatives, they're left with strange missives such as the one Trump disseminated yesterday.