Vocal supporters of President Donald Trump on the far right slammed his decision to deploy additional troops to Afghanistan and ramp up engagement in the US’s longest war.
Many of the president’s longtime boosters criticised his about-face on Afghanistan, a war he repeatedly pilloried in the years leading up to the 2016 election.
Breitbart News, the site led by recently ousted White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, had a front page Monday evening full of stories lambasting Trump’s decision, referring to it as “unlimited war,” and comparing his strategy to that of President Barack Obama. Its top story described the speech as a “disappointment to many who had supported his calls during the campaign to end expensive foreign intervention and nation-building.”
Breitbart politics reporter Adam Shaw wrote a separate story titled “Trump’s ‘America First’ Base Unhappy with Flip-Flop Afghanistan Speech,” while other top articles on the site compared the speech to an address Obama delivered in 2009, in which he said American commitment to Afghanistan would not be a “blank check.”
Conservative pundits Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham both questioned the wisdom of increased troop levels.
It doesn’t matter who you vote for. The military-industrial complex wins. Only difference: GOP presidents pronounce “Pakistan” correctly.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 22, 2017
Far-right provocateurs who have boosted Trump on different social-media platforms also slammed the speech.
Stefan Molyneux, a far-right podcaster and YouTube broadcaster, highlighted Trump’s past calls for troop withdraw from Afghanistan, while internet personality Mike Cernovich mocked the supposed influence of national security adviser H.R. McMaster and adviser Jared Kushner on the policy.
Congratulations to President McMaster!
— Mike Cernovich ???????? (@Cernovich) August 22, 2017
For his part, Trump seemed to acknowledge a reversal on the issue, saying he had gone against his “instinct” was to pull out of the war but that the realities of the position of commander in chief had changed his thinking.
Some of Trump’s most loyal media supporters, however, praised the speech and the strategy. The president was almost universally lauded by panelists on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program on Monday night.
On a smaller scale, the split seemed to mirror the reaction to Trump’s decision to launch missile strikes in Syria earlier this year.
Supporters on the far right like Cernovich have long maintained scepticism over intervention, while Hannity rattled the sabers for the invasion of Iraq and has espoused hawkish foreign policy views at different points in his career.
GOP Sen. Rand Paul, considered one of the more libertarian-leaning members of Congress, also broke with Trump over his decision to commit more troops to the 16-year-old conflict.
“The mission in Afghanistan has lost its purpose, and I think it is a terrible idea to send any more troops into that war,” Paul said in a statement on Monday.
Trump’s troop increase comes at a moment when some far-right nationalist personalities have begun to question whether they will continue to offer full-throated support for the presidency, particularly following the departure of former Bannon, who was seen as a primary enabler of Trump’s nationalist and isolationist impulses.
“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said in an interview with the Weekly Standard after his ouster last week. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It will be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”
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