Defense

Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan

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President Trump met Friday with his national security team to discuss a pending peace agreement with the Taliban.

In a statement after the meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the meeting at Trump’s resort in Bedminster, N.J., focused on “the status of negotiations for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.”

“Led by the president, we are working diligently on the path forward in Afghanistan,” Pompeo said. “In continued close cooperation with the government of Afghanistan, we remain committed to achieving a comprehensive peace agreement, including a reduction in violence and a ceasefire, ensuring that Afghan soil is never again used to threaten the United States or her allies and bringing Afghans together to work towards peace.”

{mosads}A senior administration official told reporters before the meeting that Trump has “been pretty clear” about his desire to withdraw from Afghanistan.

After the meeting, Trump said he was looking to make a deal “if possible.”

“Just completed a very good meeting on Afghanistan,” Trump tweeted. “Many on the opposite side of this 19 year war, and us, are looking to make a deal – if possible!”

Attendees also included Vice President Pence, national security adviser John Bolton, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, CIA Director Gina Haspel and special envoy for Afghan peace talks Zalmay Khalilzad, Pompeo said.

Khalilzad has been engaging in talks with the Taliban for months on a deal to end America’s longest war that would see a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in exchange for Taliban assurances that it will not let terrorist groups use the country to launch attacks against the United States.

Finalization of a deal has been stymied by the Taliban’s refusal of inter-Afghan talks that the United States has been pushing for.

The eighth round of talks took place in Qatar earlier this month and ended without an announcement of a deal. Khalilzad called the talks “productive” and said he would “consult on next steps” back in Washington.

The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban, and conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.

Top Republican lawmakers have warned Trump against a full withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“To trust the Taliban to control Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other radical Islamist groups present in Afghanistan – as a replacement for a US counter-terrorism force – would be a bigger mistake than Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted Friday.

“Mr. President, learn from President Obama’s mistakes,” Graham added in another tweet. “A bad agreement puts the radical Islamist movement all over the world on steroids. Be smart, take your time, and listen to your national security team.”

Updated at 7:17 p.m.

Tags Afghanistan Donald Trump Gina Haspel John Bolton Lindsey Graham Mark Esper Mike Pompeo Taliban War in Afghanistan White House meeting

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