Washington (CNN)A Koch backed advocacy group focused on veterans issues is launching a new effort to pressure President Donald Trump to make good on his campaign commitment to pull US troops out of Afghanistan and Syria.
Koch affiliated veterans group urges Trump to withdraw from Syria and Afghanistan
During his State of the Union speech earlier this year Trump declared "Great nations don't fight endless wars."
That quote will be prominently displayed on a new website and used in a digital advert as part of a campaign from the group, Concerned Veterans for America.
The group is investing six figures in the campaign which will initially focus on pressuring the White House and lawmakers in Washington to withdraw US troops from the frontlines. CNN is first to report on their campaign.
"This will be a full-spectrum, integrated issue campaign. It is going to be nationwide. We are going to do a lot of work in DC and work on leveraging our grassroots army across the country," said Dan Caldwell, a CVA senior adviser.
There will be a digital ad-buy in Northern Virginia and DC, on platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Google and Linkedin. The digital push will be complemented by a lobbying effort to pressure lawmakers. There will also be events organized across the country to raise awareness on these issues.
"We are planting our flag," Caldwell said of the efforts.
Trump has wrestled with his own instincts and political commitments on the issue of bringing home American troops as well as the practical realities on the ground in the countries where the troops are stationed. At the end of last year Trump ordered staff to execute the "full" and "rapid" withdrawal of US military from Syria. The declaration shocked Trump administration officials and GOP lawmakers triggering a ferocious backlash. Trump's own Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, resigned soon after the announcement, which he was not consulted on.
The drawdown of US troops in Syria has now been slow-rolled largely for security reasons and the initial need to fully eradicate the ISIS caliphate. Now some 2,000 US troops remain in the war-torn country but the administration is committed to drawing that number down to 400.
There are currently about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan and peace talks with the Taliban are at a sensitive stage with no sign of an agreement being reached anytime soon.
The majority of Republicans in Congress do not support a rapid withdrawal from either Syria or Afghanistan.
"We do not believe we need to withdraw completely from the world or ignore the Middle East entirely, but longer-term, large-scale interventions are counterproductive and are not making us safer," Caldwell said. "We can deal with immediate and clear threats as they emerge."
When asked if this campaign was directed to counter the impact of John Bolton, Trump's hawkish national security adviser, on Trump's foreign policy agenda, Caldwell said that Trump officials should "put disagreements aside" and implement the foreign policy Trump wants. If they cannot, officials "should probably not be part of the administration," Caldwell added.
Trump has a complicated relationship with the ideologically conservative Koch network, run by billionaire Charles Koch, who declined to endorse him in 2016, and has no plans to back his re-election campaign. Trump has lashed out on Twitter saying he does not need "their money or bad ideas." But earlier this year he tweeted a quote from CVA giving him credit for veterans legislation.
Though they are staunch Republican supporters, the Koch network has pushed back against hawkish GOP policies and long supported libertarian-leaning foreign policy positions. They have long been critics of "forever wars" that strain American taxpayer dollars and dampen military readiness. Now they are aiming to push their message and work alongside democratic allies -- such as the left-leaning votevets.org group -- but it is unclear if they will be able to shed their partisan affiliation.