Trump mocks India’s prime minister Narendra Modi over library in Afghanistan: ‘I don’t know who’s using it’

US president gives rambling press conference in which he rails against perceived lack of international support for conflicts in Middle East

Tom Embury-Dennis
Thursday 03 January 2019 13:29
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Trump mocks India's Prime Minister Modi for helping build a library in Afghanistan

Donald Trump has ridiculed India’s prime minister for the supposed construction of a library in war-torn Afghanistan.

In a rambling press conference at a White House cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr Trump railed against a litany of perceived injustices, including a lack of international support for the US in conflicts in the Middle East and Asia.

“When a country sends us 200 soldiers to Iraq, or sends us a hundred soldiers from a big country to Syria, or to Afghanistan, and then they tell me a hundred times, ‘Oh we sent you soldiers, we sent you soldiers’. And that’s one one-hundredth of the money that they’re taking advantage of,” Mr Trump told reporters.

“They’re just doing that to make me happy. Or to make past presidents happy. I’ve heard past presidents, ‘Well, they’re involved in the Afghanistan war, because they sent us a hundred soldiers’. And yet, it’s costing us billions and billions of dollars.”

The president then moved on to prime minister Narendra Modi, who has promoted the importance of India-US ties in helping to stabilise Afghanistan.

“I could give you an example where, I get along very well with India and prime minister Modi, but he’s constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan. Ok a library. That’s like, you know what that is? It’s like five hours of what we spend, and he tells it, and he’s very smart, and we’re supposed to say, ‘Oh thank you for the library’.

“I don’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan, but it’s one of those things.”

It is unclear exactly what library project Mr Trump was referring to.

Trump says Syria is ‘sand and death’

According to The Times of India, New Delhi has committed $3bn (£2.4bn) in assistance to Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the Taliban following the 9/11 attack on New York in 2001.

Projects have included the reconstruction of a school in Kabul and the reconstruction of the Afghan parliament in 2015.

In a speech to US troops last year in Virginia, Mr Trump called on India to “help us more” in Afghanistan, “especially in the area of economic assistance and development”.

His complaint that one of America’s allies is not doing enough militarily will be familiar to European nations, many of whom have been criticised by the president for failing to meet Nato-agreed targets on defence spending.

Mr Modi was not the only high-profile figure to be met with Mr Trump’s ire. He also criticised outgoing defence secretary Jim Mattis, saying he was “not happy” with the job the retired general had done in Afghanistan.

The president then falsely claimed he had “essentially” fired Mr Mattis over his job performance. Mr Mattis in fact resigned in protest at Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, in a letter widely seen as critical of the president.

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