Speaking to reporters before a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday, President Trump offered some insight into his thinking on the now 18-year-old U.S. war in Afghanistan that churns on and on. Trump has previously expressed displeasure for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, as well as an aversion to American military adventurism more generally. Strangely, despite being conflict-averse, Trump is violence-obsessed. As president, Trump speaks in uncommonly grisly terms about just about everything—whether it’s warranted or totally made up. During his remarks from the Oval Office, Trump painted the Afghan conflict in macabre terms, suggesting that the U.S. had a plan that could end the war “in a week,” but it would require the death and destruction of 10 million people.
“We’re like policemen. We’re not fighting a war. If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people. Does that make sense to you? I don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump said. “I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth. It would be gone… and I don’t want to go that route. So we’re working with Pakistan and others to extricate ourselves.”
It’s good to know the U.S. has ruled out mass slaughter, but that’s not exactly, like, new. The American collective psyche is accustomed to presidential bravado, but Trump’s dressing up of the obvious and repackaging it as sign of strength and restraint is unique to the Trump brain. Trump’s comments, during which Khan smiled slightly and looked into middle distance, didn’t go over so well in Afghanistan. “The Afghan nation has not and will never allow any foreign power to determine its fate,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office said in a statement Tuesday.
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan calls for clarification on the US president’s statements expressed at a meeting with the Pakistan prime minister, via diplomatic means and channels,” Ghani’s office said. “While the Afghan government supports the U.S. efforts for ensuring peace in Afghanistan, the government underscores that foreign heads of state cannot determine Afghanistan’s fate in absence of the Afghan leadership.”