US election 2020: Has Trump kept his promises on the military?


President Trump speaking at West Point in New YorkImage copyright
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US President Donald Trump has been defending his record on military spending and his pledge to cut back US involvement in foreign wars.

In 2017 he said he would rebuild the country’s “depleted military”. He has also called for a reduction in US troops serving abroad.

We’ve taken a look at the president’s record on the military.

President Trump’s son, Donald Jr, recently wrote on Twitter: “Trump properly funded our military after Obama-Biden decimated it.”

The chart shows military spending has steadily increased since President Trump took office in January 2017.

However, this spending is still significantly lower than during the first term of the Obama administration, using figures adjusted for inflation.

“Defence spending did go up quite substantially under President Trump to date. I wouldn’t call the growth unprecedented, though,” says Michael O’Hanlon, a security fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“Mr Trump can claim credit for a large ‘peacetime’ increase from a state that was already fairly good under Mr Obama, whose defence budgets were strong by historical standards too – more than $100bn above the Cold War annual average, once adjusted for inflation,” says Mr O’Hanlon.

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Getty Images

Image caption

US soldier in Germany, where thousands of overseas troops are based

Looking at military spending over the past three decades, comparing it with the size of the US economy, we can see that current spending is at nowhere near record levels.

US military spending 1990-2019

Military spending increased dramatically from 2002 as the US entered protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It peaked in 2010 as a percentage of GDP – the value of all goods and services – after which the US began stepping back from its engagement in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Does the US have fewer overseas troops?

President Trump has long called for troops to come home and has criticised US military interventions for being costly and ineffective.

Mr O’Hanlon says: “Mr Trump has scaled back the presence he inherited in Afghanistan and to a limited extent in Iraq and Syria.”

This year the president reduced the number of troops in Afghanistan to 8,600 from 13,000 and plans to cut the number further before the 3 November election.

But, says Mr O’Hanlon: “He has only moved the needle modestly in terms of global operations and deployments, as we remain everywhere that we were on January 20, 2017 when he took office.”

The reduction of troops was much greater under President Obama, as both large-scale deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan ended during his years in charge.

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