Trump threatened to wipe out an Afghan village during a call with a Taliban negotiator, per Mark Meadows' new book.
Intentionally killing civilians is a war crime.
The Taliban negotiator Trump spoke to is now the deputy prime minister in Afghanistan.
During a phone call with a Taliban negotiator in early 2020, then-President Donald Trump threatened to wipe out the negotiator's hometown if the militant Islamist group threatened Americans or US interests, according to a new book by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
The Trump administration at the time was engaged in talks with the Taliban that produced a pact - the Doha agreement, signed in February 2020 - that would see US troops leave Afghanistan.
"'Before we start this withdrawal,' President Trump said, 'I want to make something clear. Let me just tell you right now that if anything bad happens to Americans or America interests, or if you ever come over to our land, we will hit you with a force that no country has ever been hit with before - a force so great that you won't even believe it," Meadows wrote.
Meadows recalled Trump saying: "And your village, Mullah? We know where it is. We know it's the Weetmak village. If you dare lay hands on a single American, that will be the first thing that I destroy. I will not hesitate."
If a world leader ordered a strike knowing that it would kill civilians, or intentionally targeted civilians, it could constitute a war crime.
Throughout the war in Afghanistan, US airstrikes frequently killed civilians. This was particularly true under Trump, who relaxed the rules of engagement for strikes in 2017 and saw civilian casualties skyrocket during his tenure.
Trump has publicly threatened to commit war crimes in the past. In January 2020, he said the US military would target Iranian cultural sites if the country retaliated against the US for assassinating one of its most prominent generals, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.
The president on the phone call cited by Meadows was speaking with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban co-founder who was released from a prison in Pakistan at the Trump administration's request in 2018. After the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August, Baradar became deputy prime minister in the interim government.
The last US troops left Afghanistan in late August after a chaotic evacuation process.
President Joe Biden's administration faced bipartisan criticism over its handling of the withdrawal, which coincided with the Taliban takeover as well as an ISIS-K attack that killed 13 US service members and 170 Afghans near the Kabul airport on August 26. In the days following the attack, the Biden administration mistook an aid worker for an ISIS-K militant and ordered a drone strike that killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children.
There are diverging views on who is to blame for how the pullout was conducted.
The Afghanistan withdrawal was set in motion via the deal made between Trump and the Taliban. The Doha agreement has been the subject of much criticism. H.R. McMaster, Trump's second national security adviser, in an August podcast interview called the deal "a surrender agreement with the Taliban."
"This collapse goes back to the capitulation agreement of 2020. The Taliban didn't defeat us. We defeated ourselves," McMaster said.
Biden largely stuck to the terms of the Trump-era agreement, though he did push back the deadline for the pullout by several months. Biden has faced particular criticism over the fact that Americans and Afghan allies were left behind when the last US troops departed. There have been continued efforts in the time since to get people out.
Meadows' book takes a deeply critical stance on Biden's handling of the withdrawal, contending that Trump would've done a far better job. The former White House chief of staff suggested that Biden should resign over the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Biden has defended the withdrawal by arguing that it was long past time for the US to end the war in Afghanistan, which lasted 20 years.
"I refused to send another generation of America's sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago," Biden said in an August 31 speech. "I was not going to extend this forever war."