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Trump, National Security Officials Discuss Afghanistan

16 Mar 2019 Afghanistan Times

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: US President Donald Trump and his national security

team had an hour long, classified meeting on Afghanistan on Friday, a day after

a top Afghan official openly complained that the Trump administration was

keeping his government in the dark about its negotiations with the


The meeting at the Pentagon included Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of

State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Trump’s national security

adviser, John Bolton, among others. The session was a classified briefing about

Afghanistan, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of

anonymity to discuss the subject of the private briefing, the Associated Press


The Pentagon has been developing plans to withdraw up to half of the 14,000

troops still in Afghanistan. Patrick Shanahan, acting secretary of defense,

said he has no orders to reduce the U.S. troop presence, although officials say

that is at the top of the Taliban’s list of demands in exploratory peace


U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, the administration’s main

negotiator with the Taliban, recently concluded a 13-day session with leaders

of the insurgent group to try to find a way to end the 17-year war. 

Khalilzad said the two sides reached two “draft agreements” covering the

withdrawal of U.S. troops and guarantees that Afghanistan would not revert to a

haven for terrorists. But he was unable to persuade the Taliban to launch talks

with the Afghan government. 

The two sides seem to be in agreement about the withdrawal of American forces,

but divided over the timeline and whether a residual force would remain. 

Taliban officials have told The Associated Press that the insurgents want a

full withdrawal within three to five months, but that U.S. officials say it

will take 18 months to two years. The Americans are likely to insist on a

residual U.S. force to guard the American Embassy and other diplomatic

facilities, and may press for a counterterrorism force as well. 

Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib visited Washington on Thursday

to publicly complain that the Trump administration has alienated the Afghan

government, legitimized the militant network and is crafting a deal that will

never lead to peace. His blunt remarks prompted a scolding from State

Department officials. 

Mohib, the former Afghan ambassador to the United States, said talks about

withdrawing troops should be conducted with the Afghan government, which has a

bilateral security agreement with the U.S. He also suggested that the

negotiations conducted by Khalilzad, a veteran American diplomat who was born

in Afghanistan, are clouded by Khalilzad’s political ambitions to lead his

native country.

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