US President Donald Trump on Tuesday renewed his vow to negotiate a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying he had no desire to kill “hundreds of thousands” in unending fighting.
In one of his few foreign-policy points in a highly partisan State of the Union address to Congress, Trump offered his blessing for ongoing negotiations with Taliban militants.
“I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them totally innocent,” Trump told the joint session of Congress.
Trump seeks major troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, officials say, a move advisers warned would plunge country deeper into chaos https://t.co/AURaecj1WB
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 21, 2018
“It is also not our function to serve other nations as a law enforcement agency. These are war-fighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all,” he said.
“We are working to finally end America’s longest war and bring our troops back home.”
Trump has long questioned the wisdom of keeping troops overseas and has described the war in Afghanistan launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks as a drain on blood and treasure.
But last year he abruptly said that he had cancelled a previously unannounced summit at the Camp David presidential retreat with the Taliban because of an attack that killed an American.
Read more: US withdrawing troops from Afghanistan: Implications for Region
He later allowed veteran US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad to resume the talks, which had taken place for months in Qatar.
Under a draft deal, the United States will withdraw troops, and the Taliban will promise not to allow extremists to use Afghanistan as a base as well as to open talks with the internationally recognized government in Kabul.
The Taliban has more recently proposed a limited reduction in violence, an easing of position after previously refusing any halt to attacks it sees as leverage.
Little foreign focus
Trump earlier spoke forcefully against Venezuela’s leftist leader Nicolas Maduro, inviting his rival Juan Guaido to watch the speech from the gallery.
But his speech otherwise focused little on foreign policy, with no mention of North Korea, a year after Trump used the State of the Union to announce his second summit with the nuclear-armed state’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
Republicans warn Trump an Afghanistan troop withdrawal deal with Taliban "would only repeat Obama's mistake" https://t.co/0Dl4YXt44s
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) August 21, 2019
Trump only briefly mentioned his pro-Israel plan for the Middle East, which he unveiled last week next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after more than a year of delay.
On Iran, Trump highlighted his pressure campaign against the clerical regime and boasted of the controversial strike he ordered last month that killed Iran’s best-known general, Qassem Soleimani.
“Because of our powerful sanctions, the Iranian economy is doing very poorly,” Trump said.
Read more: Afghanistan violence rises amid US-Taliban talks: watchdog
“We can help them make it very good in a short period of time, but perhaps they are too proud or too foolish to ask for that help.”
Trump in 2018 withdrew from an internationally backed nuclear deal negotiated under his predecessor, Barack Obama, and imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at reducing Iran’s regional clout.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk