President TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' MORE said Monday he could end the war in Afghanistan “in a week,” but that doing so would cause millions of deaths.
Instead, the president said during a White House meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that he wants Pakistan’s help to bring an end to the nearly 18-year-old conflict.
“I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump told reporters, alluding to what he said were military plans. “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.”
The president, who campaigned on ending lengthy overseas U.S. military engagements, called the war “ridiculous” and said it helped turned the nation into the world’s “policemen.”
“I don’t want to go that route,” Trump said of his supposed military plan. “So 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.”
The Afghan conflict was one of the top agenda items for Trump’s meeting with Khan. The administration has been engaged in peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the war, which was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The Oval Office huddle was aimed at cooling tensions with Pakistan in an effort to coax them into putting pressure on the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire with the Afghan government.
Khan agreed with Trump that the war must be brought to an end through peace talks.
“There is no military solution in Afghanistan,” he told reporters. “If you go all-out military, there will be millions and millions of people who will die."
Trump said that Pakistan could help play a role in stabilizing Afghanistan after a possible U.S. pullout and suggested he could restore hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan “depending on what we work out.”
“I think we have a better relationship with Pakistan right now than we did when we were paying that money. But all of that can come back, Trump said.
Trump cut off $1.3 billion in annual aid payments to Pakistan in January 2018 after the U.S. accused the South Asian country of not doing enough to combat terrorist groups.
That decision exacerbated long-standing tensions over the Pakistani government’s ties to extremist groups and its tepid support for the U.S.-led war.
A senior administration official said the aid would be restored “on certain items if Pakistan meets our security concerns,” both by fighting extremist groups in Afghanistan as well as those within its own borders accused of attacking India.
Trump even suggested he could mediate Pakistan’s decades-long conflict with India over the disputed Kashmir territory.
But the Indian government quickly rejected the offer and pushed back against the president’s suggestion that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested U.S. intervention.
Trump nonetheless appeared pleased with Khan and gushed with praise for his country, at one point declaring “Pakistan never lies.”
His tone was much different than the message he sent to Islamabad after cutting off aid for the Pakistani government.
“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,” Trump tweeted at the time. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
This story was updated at 4:57 p.m.