Trump asserts he could win Afghanistan war 'in a week' without 'using nuclear'

Trump asserts he could win Afghanistan war 'in a week' without 'using nuclear'
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE on Tuesday reiterated his claim that he could win the Afghanistan war "in a week" while maintaining that such a plan would not involve the use of nuclear weapons.

Trump made the comments while speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon in the Oval Office during a meeting with the Romanian president.

“As I’ve said, and I’ll say it any number of times — and this is not using nuclear — we could win that war in a week if we wanted to fight it, but I’m not looking to kill 10 million people,” Trump said.

“I’m not looking to kill 10 million Afghans, because that’s what would have to happen, and I’m not looking to do that.”

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The president did not elaborate on how he would go about bringing a quick end to the conflict in Afghanistan, which has spanned 18 years.

The remarks followed similar comments Trump made in July when he asserted that he could bring an end to the war "in a week," drawing speculation about how he would go about such a plan.

“I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump said during a meeting with Pakistan’s prime minister at the time.

“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.” 

Those comments left many scratching their heads and questioning whether Trump was referring to using a nuclear weapon.

Afghans were alarmed and infuriated, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last month seeking “clarification” on Trump’s comments through diplomatic channels.

On Friday, Trump was briefed by his national security team on efforts to negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan.

The United States has about 14,000 troops in America's longest war on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban, and conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.

Special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has been negotiating with the Taliban for months on a deal that would see the United States withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for assurances from the insurgents that they would not allow terrorists to launch attacks against the United States from Afghanistan.

The State Department announced Tuesday that Khalilzad is traveling to Qatar for another round of talks with the Taliban, followed by a trip to Afghanistan.

Finalization of a deal has been stymied by the Taliban’s refusal of inter-Afghan talks that the United States has been pushing for. The Taliban considers the Afghan government illegitimate.

Further underscoring the difficulties of ending the war, ISIS’s Afghanistan branch has claimed responsibility for a Saturday attack on a wedding in Kabul that killed 63 people, a stark reminder that violence is likely to continue even if the Taliban agrees to stop.

On Tuesday, Trump played down expectations for reaching a deal, saying of the ongoing talks with the Taliban, “I don’t know whether or not that plan’s going to be acceptable to me.”

“Maybe it’s not going to be acceptable to them, but we are talking, we have good talks going, and we’ll see what happens,” he added.

Still, he said, the Taliban “would like to stop fighting us.”

Trump also said it’s “ridiculous” that the United States has been in Afghanistan for 18 years, reiterating his belief that U.S. troops are acting as a “police force.”

Still, he said Afghanistan is a “dangerous place” and indicated he’s open to leaving a residual force in a place he said “does seem to be the Harvard University of terrorism.”

“It’s a dangerous place and we have to always keep an eye on it,” he said. “We are bringing some of our troops back, but we have to have a presence.”

“We’ll always have intelligence, and we’ll always have somebody there,” he added.