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‘I just don’t want to kill 10 million people’: Trump’s comments reverberate in Afghanistan

While meeting with Pakistani prime minister on July 22, President Trump said he hoped Pakistan would help the United States "extricate" itself from Afghanistan. (Video: The Washington Post)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Afghans were startled to hear President Trump’s remarks that he could end the war in Afghanistan “in a week” but that it would cause the deaths of millions of people.

The office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday immediately asked for “clarification” about Trump’s statement “via diplomatic means and channels.”

“If I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth,” Trump said Monday. “It would be over in literally, in 10 days.” He did not elaborate on how that would be done.

Trump made the comments during a White House meeting with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in which the two discussed a number of issues, including ending the war in Afghanistan.

Trump claims progress in Afghanistan peace talks, says Pakistan is now helping because of him

“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,” he said.

The statement from Ghani’s office said that while it “supports the U.S. efforts for ensuring peace in Afghanistan, the government underscores that foreign heads of state cannot determine Afghanistan’s fate.”

On social media, Afghans and analysts condemned Trump’s remarks.

Rahmatullah Nabil, a candidate in Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential election, said in a tweet that in response to the president’s “insults,” all Afghan leaders, from Ghani to the Taliban, “should drop their selfishness & announce that we will make peace among ourselves.” There is no need for mediation from the United States or Pakistan, he added.

Others were more concerned with facts. Rana Momand, an Afghan American, tweeted: “Can some1 tell #DonaldTrump in order to wipe Afg off the face of the earth, he must get rid of 32 million Afghans, not just 10 mil.” The United Nations puts the current population of Afghanistan at 37.2 million.

Zaman Sultani, a South Asia researcher for Amnesty International, argued via tweet: “There is no need to wipe off #AFG from the face of earth. The country is devastated by the meaningless war by the #Taliban and the corrupted & incapable #government.” He also urged the president to avoid civilian casualties in Afghanistan; they reached record highs last year.

The United States has been at war in Afghanistan since 2001, when it launched airstrikes after the 9/11 attacks to help Afghan resistance forces drive the Taliban from power. U.S. troops then began pouring in to shore up the new government, battle a resurgent Taliban and root out al-Qaeda militants. It has become the longest war in U.S. history.

In Washington on Monday, Trump and Khan continued their meeting as planned, “strengthening cooperation between the two countries to bring peace, stability and economic prosperity in South Asia,” according to a statement from the Pakistani leader.

“The two leaders reviewed progress of the Afghan peace and reconciliation process,” it said. But Khan added that “pursuing the process was a shared responsibility.”

The statement from Ghani’s office Tuesday described Afghanistan as “one of the most deep-rooted and ancient countries of the world” that has overcome many crises throughout its history.

“The Afghan nation has not and will never allow any foreign power to determine its fate,” the statement said.

Sharif Hassan contributed to this report.

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Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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