U.S. Soldiers and Airmen from Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul return to base after a quality assurance and quality control patrol near the city of Qalat, Zabul province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 1, 2010.
Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson | US Air Force
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's national security adviser said Friday that the government had set a schedule to bring U.S. soldiers home from America's longest war but moved the goal post early next year.
Speaking to a virtual audience at the Aspen Institute, National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien stated that Trump's long-standing campaign promise to bring US troops home from "ridiculous endless wars" in the Middle East was in the works.
O & # 39; Brien said Trump had ordered the Pentagon to employ about 2,500 service personnel in Afghanistan by early 2021.
"I can guarantee that this is the command of the Commander-in-Chief," O & # 39; Brien said, adding that Defense Secretary Mark Esper fully agreed with Trump's policies.
O & # 39; Brien's comments came a week after he and Trump publicly set different schedules for the withdrawal of troops from the war-weary country. Trump's announcement, made via tweet, called for US service members to be brought home by Christmas.
"The troops always want to be home at Christmas," O & # 39; Brien began when asked to clarify the different schedules. "The president wants you to come home by Christmas, and I said about that, and I think the president said we want the troops out as soon as possible."
Trump, who is standing for re-election, campaigned for the US military to withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in 2016. His Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has called for a remaining US military presence and intelligence assets to be left in Afghanistan.
"We have to stop spending the kind of money we spend in Afghanistan," said O & # 39; Brien, adding that "it is not sustainable for us to be in these countries forever".
The war in Afghanistan, which has become America's longest running conflict, began 19 years ago and cost US taxpayers $ 193 billion, according to a Department of Defense report.
The collective wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost taxpayers more than $ 1.57 trillion since September 11, 2001, according to the same report.
Of the three ongoing operations, Operation Freedom & # 39; s Sentinel in Afghanistan accounts for the lion's share of the cost at $ 193 billion.
Earlier this year, the United States signed a peace agreement with the Taliban that would initiate a permanent ceasefire and reduce the US military's footprint from about 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July. And by May 2021, all foreign forces would leave the war-torn country.
"We have to leave Afghanistan," said O & # 39; Brien. "Ultimately, Afghanistan must be ruled by the Afghans and the Afghan people must come together and find a solution for Afghanistan."