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We're changing lives: India on Trump's Afghan jibe

07 January 2019

It was clear that the government was completely taken aback by Trump's statement that he would be meeting with Pakistan's leadership "in the not-too-distant future". With each development project, India has gained a foothold of credibility and goodwill in the minds of the Afghan people and strengthened the domestic dispensation in the war-ravaged country. Since 2001, America has spent $5.7 billion through various programmes aimed at rebuilding Afghanistan.

"Right now, after having been back from Afghanistan, I can tell you that Daesh is on the rise in Afghanistan".

"Trump added that "(Modi) is very smart.

"That's like - you now what that is it - that's like 5 hours of what we spend", the president said pinching his fore-finger and thumb to illustrate his point - that India was not doing a lot.

Trump, who seems to have mistaken Afghanistan's Parliament building built by India for a library, was prodding New Delhi to do more in Afghanistan militarily but India would have none of it. But it's one of those things. I don't like being taken advantage of.

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The president made these comments while criticizing the growing cost of the United States' presence in Afghanistan, saying that India, Russia and Pakistan should be the ones fighting the Taliban. Part of the reason why he summarily put Modi on the mat could have been that Trump also realizes the great urgency of extracting Pakistan's cooperation in the Afghan endgame. He is a great gentleman and a great man and he's done a fantastic job.

India is investing $500 million to develop the Chabahar port and a road link from there to Afghanistan to give access to that country, bypassing Pakistan. The president then inaccurately and confused Russia's own history with the country. "I don't know who is using it in Afghanistan", Trump said.

Asked whether Trump would similarly pursue an Afghanistan withdrawal, as he has reportedly been debating, Pence said only that the idea was under active consideration. Why are we (US) there? But if Pakistan would help us, we could get Taliban to the table and end the war in Afghanistan.

While Trump's remarks about India were striking, the key headlines from the cabinet meeting in USA media was his seeming endorsement for the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.

The willingness to meet with the new government in Pakistan comes a month after President Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking "full support for the United States effort to advance the Afghan peace process".

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"Trump mocked India, a key US non-NATO partner that's done major development work in Afghanistan, for building a library there", Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Washington-based Wilson Center think-tank, said on Twitter.

He also warned that even if US forces depart after a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, India and Pakistan would likely move in by supporting rival factions in Afghanistan.

"Also, foreign ministers from 34 Islamic countries issued a joint statement in which they blamed the former Soviet Union and demanded the conditional withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan".

Trump last month moved to cut by half the 14,000-strong force in Afghanistan, calling for less spending overseas. The Soviets also invaded Afghanistan to prop up the local communist regime, not to fight terrorism. Trump's impulses are going to dictate America's "drawdown" rather than the strategic realities of Afghanistan.

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We're changing lives: India on Trump's Afghan jibe