During his first cabinet meeting of the year, U.S. President Donald Trump mocked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding “a library” in Afghanistan, saying it wouldn’t be used in the war-torn country.
“I get along very well with India and Prime Minister Modi. But he is constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan. Library! That’s, like, five hours of what we spend (in Afghanistan),” said the president.
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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.
“Why is not Russia there? Why isn’t India there? Why isn’t Pakistan there? Why are we there? We are 6,000 miles away. But I don’t mind. We want to help our people. We want to help other nations,” Trump said while answering a reporter’s question during the meeting.
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In regards to the library, Trump added that “(Modi) is very smart. We are supposed to say, ‘Oh, thank you for the library.’ Don’t know who’s using it (the library) in Afghanistan. But it’s one of those things. I don’t like being taken advantage of.”
The Times of India reported that “official sources” in India objected to Trump’s comments, stating that the libraries represent India’s contribution to community development in Afghanistan, in addition to the billions the country is spending on roads, dams and Afghanistan’s new parliament building.
India has been a major player in the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and has committed approximately US$3 billion to the cause since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Economic Times reports.
According to the Embassy of India in Afghanistan, the current development partnership between India and Afghanistan renders India the country’s largest donor in the region and one of its largest donors in the world. Education is highlighted as a key pillar of this development partnership.
Last month, Trump put forth a motion to cut U.S. forces in Afghanistan to reduce spending, a proposal that would see the current deployment of 14,000 troops reduced by half. As of 2017, the cost of American involvement in the region had surpassed US$2 trillion.
Trump went on to state that the Soviet Union was “right to invade Afghanistan” in 1979 “because terrorists were going to Russia,” adding that the 10-year mission bankrupted the Soviets.