As U.S. officials continue talks with the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal and withdraw American troops from the country, President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday that he’s seen a plan that would end the Afghanistan war in a week and a half.
American service members have been acting like policemen, he added, and the administration is leaning on Pakistan to help it leave behind a more stable Afghanistan.
“If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I would win that war in a week,” he said before heading into a closed-door meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. “I just don’t want to kill 10 million people. Does that make sense to you?”
Pakistan has been helping with the peace talks, according to a Tuesday release from the White House, “and we are going to ask them to do more.”
“I think Pakistan’s going to help us out, to extricate ourselves,” Trump said.
Trump’s statement that his plan would annihilate one-third of the Afghan population raised concerns in national security circles, as the estimated death toll implied a threat of nuclear force.
“I have plans on Afghanistan that, if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth,” he said. “It would be over literally in 10 days. I don’t want to go that route.”
The president expressed frustration with the length of the conflict, and with the work coalition forces have been doing to help stabilize the country.
'We’ve been there for 19 years, in Afghanistan ― it’s ridiculous," he said, using an oft-repeating, though inaccurate, timeline.
U.S. troops first hit the ground in Afghanistan in October 2001. What started as a special operations mission to compel Taliban surrender turned into almost two decades of trying to squash regional terrorist threats while training national military and police forces and working toward the “hearts and minds” goals of counterinsurgency doctrine.
“They’re building gas stations. They’re rebuilding schools. The United States ― we shouldn’t be doing that. That’s for them to do,” Trump said of the Afghans.
Trump and Khan were expected to cover the Taliban peace talks and other national security issues in their meeting Tuesday.
Officials from the U.S. and the Taliban most recently met in Qatar earlier this month.
“I think we’ll have some good answers on Afghanistan very quickly,” Trump said.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.