President Donald Trump said Monday that the U.S. military could end the war in Afghanistan “in a week” if he had the stomach for a massacre.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump expressed frustration that U.S. troops in the country were acting like policemen in the country, adding that the U.S. would like to lean more on Pakistan to help bring an end to the conflict.
“I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump said before holding a closed-door meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. “If I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth. It would be over in — literally, in 10 days.”
“I don’t want to go that route,” Trump continued. “So we’re working with Pakistan and others to extricate ourselves. Nor do we want to be policemen, because basically we’re policemen right now. And we’re not supposed to be policemen.”
Was Trump threatening to nuke Afghanistan?
Trump’s statement raised concerns among some security types that he was revealing plans for a possible nuclear strike on Afghanistan.
“He baldly states that we have analyzed and considered using nuclear weapons to kill millions of people in Afghanistan as a solution to the conflict,” retired Army Four Star General Barry McCaffrey tweeted Monday. “WHAT IS TRUMP THINKING?”
Troubling listening to Trump Oval Office news conference with Pakistani PM. He baldly states that we have analyzed and considered using nuclear weapons to kill millions of people in Afghanistan as a solution to the conflict. WHAT IS TRUMP THINKING?
— Barry R McCaffrey (@mccaffreyr3) July 22, 2019
Conservative journalist Bill Kristol said the president’s comments disrespected the troops who have fought in Afghanistan over the past 18 years.
Two notes on Trump’s embarrassing Afghanistan comments:
1. He shows no respect for soldiers and Marines who’ve courageously fought there and achieved much while obeying the laws of war.
2. He assumes immoral orders from him would be obeyed; they wouldn’t be and he’d be impeached.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) July 22, 2019
Done with foreign entanglements
Trump, who campaigned for the presidency on an “America First’ platform, has expressed mounting frustration with the length of the Afghanistan war. In December, he ordered the withdrawal of roughly half of the 14,000 U.S. troops in the country. But those plans were put on hold as the U.S. attempts to broker a peace deal with the Taliban.
The president’s White House meeting with Khan was part of an attempt to win Pakistan’s cooperation in the talks. During Trump’s public comments, he dangled the possibility of restored U.S. aide to its frenemy in the region.
“I think we have a better relationship with Pakistan right now than we did when we were paying that money,” he said. “But all of that can come back.”
Khan echoed Trump’s preference for diplomacy over an escalation of violence.
“There is no military solution in Afghanistan,” he said. “If you go all-out military, there will be millions and millions of people who will die.”
While some have deemed Trump an isolationist, he has shown an appreciation for American military might, and occasionally, a willingness to use it. In late 2017, he increased troop numbers in Afghanistan to 14,000 at the request of military leaders.
In Iraq and Syria, Trump escalated the air campaign against the Islamic State and helped wipe out the terror group’s territorial holdings. He also last year authorized multiple Tomahawk missile strikes on Syrian military targets in response to the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, Trump has overseen an increase in military spending. On Monday, he announced a budget deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that runs through the 2020 election. In addition to boosting domestic spending, the agreement reverses cuts and drawdowns to military spending made during the finals years of the Obama administration.
“Very important that we take care of our military,” Trump said of the deal. “Our military was depleted and in the last two and a half years, we’ve un-depleted it, to put it mildly. We have made it stronger than ever before.”