President Trump, in an extensive Fox News Radio interview Thursday with Brian Kilmeade, adamantly defended his handling of the trade war with China, arguing that controversial tariffs are his “primary” tool for negotiations and that they are working.
“They’re coming to the table,” Trump said.
The president also confirmed that negotiators are working on a U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan, but offered assurances that the U.S. would keep a “presence” in the country. “We’re going down to 8,600 [troops] and then we’ll make a determination from there as to what happens,” he said.
“We’re not fighting a war over there—we’re just policemen,” Trump added. “We could win that war so fast if I wanted to kill 10 million people, Brian, but I don’t. I’m not looking to kill a big portion of that country.”
The president’s comments come as the U.S. and the Taliban seemed to be approaching a deal in which U.S. forces would withdraw in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not become a haven for other terrorist groups.
The president, during the interview, called Afghanistan “the Harvard University of Terror,” saying that people “were trained and then they did the World Trade Center attack.”
“We have to watch Afghanistan,” Trump said. “I don’t know if that deal is going to happen.”
Some 14,000 U.S. troops have remained in Afghanistan, advising and assisting Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations against the ISIS terror network’s Afghan affiliate and other extremist groups, including Al Qaeda.
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, beginning an 18-year involvement –the longest in U.S. history. The conflict has killed more than 2,000 American troops, injured more than 20,000 and cost nearly a trillion dollars since 2001.
In 2017, Trump announced a 4,000-troop increase as part of an effort to break the stalemate in the country, but he has been moving toward agreeing to a phased withdrawal of troops.
This week, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, though, said it is too early to talk about a full withdrawal from the country.
“I’m not using the ‘withdraw’ word right now,” Dunford said. “It’s our judgment that the Afghans need support to deal with the level of violence in the country today.”
Trump also was asked about the trade war between the U.S. and China, maintaining that he believed Beijing would eventually make a deal with the U.S.
“China wants to make a deal,” Trump said, noting the country is losing “millions and millions of jobs.” “I think they want to make a deal, I sort of think they have to make a deal. We’ll see what happens.”
“China has been ripping us off for billions and billions of dollars like babies—Obama was ripped off, Bush and Clinton—I’m doing what had to be done,” Trump said.
“I was given a lot of bad hands and we’re going to win with every one of them.”
The president added that fentanyl, an opioid painkiller from China, would be “part of my deal.”
“I said to President Xi, who is a very strong leader—he’s got a lot of strength—get rid of this fentanyl. The fentanyl is part of our trade deal, whether people like it or not.”
Trump hinted that there were talks “at a different level” with China slated for Thursday, and said there are more talks scheduled.
Trump, following the G-7 summit in France, said that despite escalating tariffs on both sides, he thinks China wants to “make a deal.” And he told reporters earlier this week when pressed about the fallout from that fight, “Sorry, it’s the way I negotiate.”
This week, there have been rapid-fire developments in the trade fight between the U.S. and China. The president, after urging American businesses to abandon China, over the weekend threatened to declare a national emergency and freeze those relationships—as China imposed retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion in U.S. goods and the Trump administration announced increased tariffs on $550 billion in Chinese goods.
The yuan slipped to 7.1487 to the dollar on Monday—taking a dive after the Treasury Department formally designated China a currency manipulator. The Treasury Department said it would work with the International Monetary Fund to try to address the “unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions.”
But the yuan slipping could ultimately help struggling local exporters who want their products to be less expensive for international purchasers. People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang, though, has insisted that China does not “engage in competitive devaluation.”
Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that if “China would agree to a fair and balanced relationship, we would sign that deal in a second.”
The trade war has not only impacted Chinese and Asian markets—U.S. markets have also plummeted, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average nosediving more than 600 points Friday after the latest escalation between the U.S. and China. The major drop put the S&P 500 at its fourth straight weekly loss.
The Dow plunge came after Trump tweeted that he “hereby ordered” U.S. companies with operations in China to consider moving them to other countries—including the U.S.
After the market closed on Friday, Trump vowed to increase existing tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods to 30 percent from 25 percent, and that new tariffs on another $300 billion of imports would be at 15 percent, instead of 10 percent—as promised in May when the administration first announced the U.S.’s controversial move to increase tariffs on Chinese goods after trade talks between Washington and Beijing failed to come to an agreement.
Fox News’ Frank Miles and The Associated Press contributed to this report.