US officials are scrambling to defuse a diplomatic crisis after President Donald Trump's remarks that he could win the Afghan War in just 10 days by wiping out the country.
The talks that US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, held with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Tuesday were tense, said a US media report. Khalilzad is set to resume talks with the Taliban in a bid to clinch a deal by September - a priority for the Trump presidency going into an election year.
President Ghani's government has already asked Washington to clarify Trump's remarks. A line from the statement released by the president's house in Kabul read, "The Afghan nation has not and will never allow any foreign power to determine its fate."
Incidentally, Trump's remarks drew a strong reaction from the Taliban too which continues to oppose direct talks with President Ghani's government. "Trump's policy that he does not want to play the role of a police officer in Afghanistan and that this war against an entire nation cannot be won so long as they are alive is something positive. However, his claim that he can wipe out Afghanistan, kill 10 million Afghans and win this war through such a method is irresponsible and we condemn it in the strongest terms," a Taliban spokesperson said.
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Trump's other remark on Kashmir, made during the same meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday, also caused a diplomatic flutter and miffed New Delhi. While offering to mediate in the Kashmir issue, Trump claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a similar appeal when he met him.
India was quick to dismiss that claim. India's Ministry of External Affairs said no such request was ever made by PM Modi and that Kashmir remains a bilateral issue.
New Delhi believes that Trump is in a hurry to pull out US troops from Afghanistan and call an end to the Afghan War. And he wants to keep Pakistan in good humour so that it can make the Taliban to agree to a peace deal.
Washington knows only too well the linkages that exist between the Pakistani state and the Taliban.
The only time a US government official came close to answering a question about Trump's remarks about PM Modi and Kashmir was during a media interaction with the US President's chief economic advisor Larry Kudlow. A journalist asked Kudlow whether the president made up his remarks.
"The President does not make anything up. That's a very rude question in my opinion. I am going to stay out of that. It's outside of my lane. It's for Mr (US National Security Adviser John) Bolton, Mr (US Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo and the President, so I am not going to comment on that. President does not make things up," said Kudlow.
But a former US diplomat Nicholas Burns, who played a key role in the India-US civil nuclear deal during the George Bush government, said that it is embarrassing for a US President to "make things up".
President Ghani's government has already asked Washington to clarify Trump's remarks