US President Donald Trump has 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.