Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up a cap that he signed for a supporter during a rally at the Expo Hall of the Richmond International Raceway on October 14, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia.
Donald Trump backtracks on Afghanistan war: Not a mistake
02:25 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Trump said Wednesday that his comment calling the war in Afghanistan a "terrible mistake" was a result of him misunderstanding the question he was asked

A review of the transcript from his interview with Cuomo makes clear, however, that Trump was indeed labeling Afghanistan a mistake

Washington CNN  — 

Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that he has consistently supported the decision to invade Afghanistan and that his earlier comment calling the war there a “terrible mistake” was a result of him misunderstanding the question he was asked.

In a statement provided by top aide Michael Cohen, Trump referred to a “misunderstanding” that he had during his interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

“I have always been in favor of going into Afghanistan because it sits next to Pakistan which has nuclear weapons. I have not been in favor of going into Iraq,” he said. “When I made the statement about not going into Afghanistan, I thought Chris was referring to Iraq.”

But a review of the transcript from his October 6 interview with Cuomo makes clear that Trump was indeed labeling Afghanistan a mistake, since he was comparing the situation there with that in Iraq.

Though Trump and Cuomo were initially discussing the situation in Iraq and Syria, the host switched gears to talk about Afghanistan, mentioning the country by name twice.

“I understand your position on Syria, that you’re taking a wait-and-see approach there with the Russians. What about in Afghanistan?” Cuomo asked. “President Obama just said – not because of what just happened in Kunduz with the hospital you referred to, but (with) the instability of the situation vis-a-vis the Taliban and other terrorist entities there – he believes that a force should stay there and fight. Do you believe that American boots should stay on the ground in Afghanistan to stabilize the situation?”

Trump’s answer: “I wouldn’t totally disagree with it except, you know, at some point, are they going to be there for the next 200 years? You know, at some point what’s going on? It’s going to be a long time.”

Donald Trump attends a fight at Madison Square Garden on October 17, 2015, in New York City.

He continued, “We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place.”

Then he compared Afghanistan to Iraq.

“We had real brilliant thinkers that didn’t know what the hell they were doing. And it’s a mess. It’s a mess. And at this point, you probably have to, because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave. Just as I said that Iraq was going to collapse after we leave,” Trump said.

Cuomo then referred to Afghanistan again.

“On Afghanistan, you’re saying that you’re with the president. For now, you leave the troops there and see what the time horizon is?” he asked.

“I would leave the troops there, begrudgingly,” Trump replied. “I’m not happy about it, I will tell you, but I would leave the troops there begrudgingly, yes.”

The Trump campaign declined to comment further.

Earlier this week, the business mogul twice expressed his support for the war in Afghanistan.

At an event Monday night in South Carolina, Trump said, “Afghanistan is where we should have gone,” explaining that the U.S. should have focused its attention there and not the war in Iraq.

And in an interview Tuesday morning with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, Trump contended that he “never said” that the war in Afghanistan was a mistake.

CNN’s Christie Bear contributed to this report.