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Trump seeks Pakistan’s help to end long Afghanistan war

/ 06:49 AM July 23, 2019

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump claimed Monday he could end the nearly two-decade-old war in Afghanistan in a matter of days but that it would kill millions of people and wipe the country “off the face of the earth.”

 Trump seeks Pakistan's help to end long Afghanistan war

President Donald Trump greets Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan as he arrives at the White House, Monday, July 22, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The president made the statement at the White House as he praised Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and sought his help in negotiating a peace deal in neighboring Afghanistan.

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“I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “If I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth. It would be gone. It would be over, literally, in 10 days.”

Warming up to Khan marked a turnaround for Trump, who has been sharply critical of Pakistan and now hopes Khan’s government will use its influence with the Taliban to advance a peace deal and help the U.S. withdraw from the war.

The war began when the U.S. went after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his Taliban supporters in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Sitting alongside Khan, Trump said he wanted a peaceful resolution. “So we’re working with Pakistan and others to extricate ourselves,” he said.

The pleasantries in the Oval Office were an abrupt change from when Trump cut millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, saying the only thing it offered the United States was “lies” and “deceit.”

Khan has bashed Trump too, but now says Pakistan is also eager to work to end the war. The U.S. wants Pakistan to use its leverage to get the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire, negotiate with the Afghan government and stop harboring militant groups.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who sat in on the meeting, said, “Peace with honor and dignity in Afghanistan is only possible with the complete buy-in of Pakistan.”

“If the Taliban are denied sanctuary in Pakistan, this war will end quickly and on our terms,” Graham said, adding that he thinks Pakistan’s leaders are ready for change. “It is my hope that we can negotiate a free trade agreement between the United States and Pakistan, which would be of mutual economic benefit and an incentive to maintain stability in the region.”

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been holding talks with the Taliban for months, but so far the militant group has refused to talk directly to the Afghan government and Taliban attacks have continued. Khalilzad leaves Tuesday on a nearly two-week trip to Afghanistan, where he will confer with members of the Afghan government, and later Qatar, where he will resume talks with the Taliban.

“It’s the closest we’ve been to a peace deal,” Khan told Trump. “And I hope in the coming days we will be able to urge the Taliban to speak to the Afghan government and come to a political solution.”

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Trump’s casual comments about wiping Afghanistan off the map will likely unsettle Afghans, who have fought against the Taliban alongside their U.S. and NATO partners for years. Afghans also are wary of Pakistan’s involvement in their country’s future. For years, the Afghans have accused Pakistan of creating instability in their country by giving militants a safe place from which to stage attacks across the two countries long, porous border.

As the war has dragged on, relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have gone up and down.

They reached rock bottom under former President Barack Obama when the U.S. carried out the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan without giving Islamabad a heads-up. The relationship didn’t improve when Trump took office.

In January 2018, Trump tweeted: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help.”

Khan, the former captain of the Pakistani cricket team who assumed office last fall, has fired back.

He tweeted that Pakistan has suffered 75,000 casualties and lost $123 billion in the “US War on Terror,” despite the fact that no Pakistanis were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. He says the U.S. has only provided a “minuscule” $20 billion in aid.

Now, both countries say they want to smooth tensions. /gsg

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TAGS: Afghanistan, Imrahn Khan, Pakistan, Trump, War, world news
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