Kabul, Afghanistan — The Afghan government asked Tuesday for clarification of President Donald Trump’s statement that the U.S. military could end the war in Afghanistan in 10 days, but that the country would be wiped out in the process. Mr. Trump suggested on Monday, in a seemingly off-hand remark, that he could order such a military intervention in lieu of a peaceful resolution to the 18-year-war that began with the U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban.
Mr. Trump made the remarks Monday during a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose help he seeks inthat would enable U.S. forces to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Mr. Trump said he could win the Afghan war in just 10 days but it would also wipe “Afghanistan from the face of the earth.”
“I could win that war in a week, I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Mr. Trump said. “Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth,” Mr. Trump said. “It would be over in literally, in 10 days, and I don’t wanna go that route, so we’re working with Pakistan and others to extricate ourselves.”
The president did not offer any further explanation on Monday of his remarks or the reference to the hypothetical death of 10 million people. Afghanistan is home to more than 35 million people.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office issued a statement on Tuesday asking for clarification on Mr. Trump’s remarks and saying Afghanistan would never “allow any foreign power to determine its fate.”
The statement also underlined that “cooperation and partnership with the world countries, particularly with the United States, is grounded on common interests and mutual respect.”
Mr. Trump’s strange remark came just as his top envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, confirmed that he was heading back to the region to try and push forward the negotiations for a peace deal with the Taliban.
One of the key points the U.S. has pushed on the Islamic extremist group during negotiations is that it must begin a direct dialogue with the Afghan government. The Taliban has refused to negotiate directly with President Ashraf Ghani’s administration in Kabul thus far, dismissing it as a puppet regime of the U.S.
Khalilzad said in a tweet on Tuesday, just before arriving in Kabul, that Mr. Trump’s remarks were meant to stress the administration’s belief that, “there is no reasonable military solution to the war in Afghanistan, & that peace must be achieved through a political settlement.”
He said his visit to the Afghan capital would remain, “focused on achieving an enduring peace that ends the war,” in addition to cementing what he called “an enduring relationship w/ Afghanistan.”
The Trump administration’s relations with the Ghani government, however, as the White House forges ahead with its negotiations with the Taliban. The Afghan leadership has been left somewhat side-lined by the process, but Khalilzad’s team repeatedly stresses that any eventual U.S. peace deal with the Taliban would require the militant group to engage in direct talks with Kabul.
Mr. Trump has previously expressed frustration with the drawn-out and costly U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, and has made clear that he wants to withdraw American forces from the country.
More than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led coalition invaded in October 2001 to oust the Taliban and hunt down al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.