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After Trump says he could wipe Afghanistan 'off the face of the earth', its leaders seek 'clarification'

The president's comments came as he was discussing winning the United States' longest war.
President Donald Trump with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Oval Office on Monday.Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images

Afghanistan leaders called for clarification Tuesday after President Donald Trump's remarks that the U.S. military could win the 18-year war in Afghanistan in 10 days but that the country would be "wiped off the face of the earth" in doing so.

"While the Afghan government supports the U.S. efforts for ensuring peace in Afghanistan, the government underscores that foreign heads of state cannot determine Afghanistan’s fate," the Afghanistan president's office said in a statement. "Given the multifaceted relationship between Afghanistan and the United States, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan calls for clarification on the U.S. President's statements."

Trump made the remarks Monday at the White House while seated next to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

"If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week," Trump said. "I just don't want to kill 10 million people. 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, in 10 days. And I don't want to do — I don't want to go that route."

The comments came as the top U.S. diplomat for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, arrived in Kabul for discussions with Afghan leadership on the next steps to reach an agreement to end America's longest war. The U.S. special representative's trip, as well as his meetings, had been announced by the State Department prior to the president's remarks.

Khalilzad is in Kabul this week "identifying a national negotiating team that can participate in intra-Afghan negotiations," according to a statement from the State Department. The Afghan government has previously refused to speak directly with the Taliban and expressed frustration about being left out of the negotiating process.

The special representative will then head to Qatar for the next round of discussions with the Taliban.

Earlier Tuesday, Khalilzad attempted to clarify the remarks in a tweet saying Trump "had reiterated to the world that there is no viable military solution to the war in Afghanistan and that peace must be achieved through a political settlement."

Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday afternoon and the Afghanistan President's Office said the two had discussed Trump's remarks.

Trump also said Monday that the administration had reduced the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan "by quite a bit," and was continuing to do so.

But speaking from Kabul last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that while the U.S. was prepared to remove American troops from Afghanistan, the two sides had not yet reached an agreement on a timeline.