Afghans react angrily to Trump’s boast that the US could ‘wipe Afghanistan off the face of the Earth’

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan listens while meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C. on July 22, 2019. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
Updated 24 July 2019
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Afghans react angrily to Trump’s boast that the US could ‘wipe Afghanistan off the face of the Earth’

  • Trump made his remarks at the White House ahead of a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
  • “I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump tells Pakistani PM

KABUL: The Afghan government demanded clarification from Washington on Tuesday after President Donald Trump said that the country “would be wiped off the face of the Earth” if he decided to win the conflict there.

Trump made his remarks at the White House ahead of a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday in which he sought to mend ties with Islamabad and seek its help to end the war in Afghanistan, the longest and most unpopular conflict in US history.

“I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump said, referring to what he claimed were prepared military plans in Afghanistan.

“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 in literally 10 days.”

The US leader’s comments could be a blow for President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which signed a security pact with Washington in late 2014 allowing US-led troops to stay in Afghanistan and, in 2017, hailed the US after it dropped the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb in the east of the country.

Trump’s remarks come amid rising violence in Afghanistan, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of Taliban, government troops and civilians in recent months. Many Afghans are asking why the world’s leading superpower has failed to defeat the insurgents 18 years after the ouster of the Taliban regime.

"Trump’s comments highlight Washington’s failure to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan” 

Political analyst Wahidullah Ghazikhail

The Afghan government, which relies heavily on US troops and funding in the war against the Taliban, has sought official clarification over Trump’s comments.

“Our partnership and cooperation with the world, and in particular with the US, is based on mutual interest and respect,” a statement issued by the presidential palace said on Tuesday.  

“The Afghan nation has never allowed and will not permit any foreign power to choose its destiny,” it added.

Many Afghans, including former government officials, reacted angrily to Trump’s comments.

Rahmatullah Nabil, a presidential candidate who served as Afghanistan’s spy chief, said in a tweet that Trump’s comments should prompt Afghan leaders to set aside their differences.

“In reply to the insults of #Afg by @realDonalTrump, all Afg politicians, including Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders, should drop their selfishness and announce that we will make peace among ourselves & there is no need for mediation for US/Pak,” he said.

Modaser Islami, a leading Afghan religious scholar, said that Trump’s remarks showed “hostility toward Afghans” and questioned if Trump was “fighting the Taliban, as terrorists or as Afghans? His recent remarks show he is enemy of latter.”

Veteran journalist Bilal Sarwary described the comments as “offensive, stupid and arrogant,” while another senior journalist called the remarks an “insult to the entire Afghan nation.”

Political analyst Wahidullah Ghazikhail told Arab News that Trump’s comments “highlight Washington’s failure to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.” 

“Obviously, the US wants to strike a deal with the Taliban and Pakistan’s role is key in the peace process,” he said. 


Philippines’ military to retrain former armed rebels for new roles as peacekeepers

Updated 4 min 46 sec ago
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Philippines’ military to retrain former armed rebels for new roles as peacekeepers

  • The 3,000 former fighters will receive basic military training to prepare them for their new role as members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams

MANILA: The Philippines military is retraining 3,000 former armed rebels for their new roles as peacekeepers in the country’s south, serving alongside the agencies and authorities they used to fight against.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was one of several groups that waged a rebellion in the Mindanao region that claimed about 150,000 lives since the 1970s. 

The government and the MILF signed a peace pact to end the decades-long conflict and, under the deal, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao was expanded and the MILF plays a role in its governance.

MILF chair Murad Ibrahim, who is chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, said the training was part of the peace process.

“We are now working with them (government forces). Everyone has already accepted that we are no longer adversarial with the government. We are now in partnership,” he told Arab News.

“We expected that this kind of partnership with the military would happen, especially when we entered into a political process, a peace process. There were no personal adversarial relations. It was just a matter of principle,” he said, adding they were ready to work with the government for the sake of lasting peace in the region.

The chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., said the military was committed to continuing with the “process of healing, and the process of normalization” in Bangsamoro.

“We have long dreamed for peace in the Bangsamoro region,” he added, emphasizing that maintaining “mutual trust” between the government and the MILF was crucial to the process.

“One thing that we should further develop is the willingness to work together. This can only happen with the start of the healing process, and confidence-building between the armed forces and the MILF.”

The 3,000 former fighters will receive basic military training to prepare them for their new role as members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST), where they will serve with the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The JPST is tasked with ensuring the successful implementation of the normalization track of the 2014 peace accord between the MILF and Manila, which includes the decommissioning of MILF forces.

On Thursday, the AFP and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process signed an agreement to formalize their partnership in implementing the decommissioning process for 40,000 MILF fighters and their weapons in the next three years.

Madrigal said the training course aimed to achieve the “same views towards security, to develop the same parameters, and synchronization of the movement” to maintain peace and order in Bangsamoro’s communities.

Earlier this month, 225 grizzled ex-fighters started their training at in Carmen, North Cotabato. Former rebel Abdulraof Macacua said this type of event was “simply unimaginable” many years ago.

 “No-one ever thought that the MILF would ever be in a military camp such as Camp Lucero to undertake military training … and with soldiers at that,” he added.