US President Donald Trump on Sunday expressed optimism at the state of talks as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with the Afghan government.
He said the United States would seek to get troop levels below 13,000 but leave “very significant” intelligence capabilities behind.
“We’re there for one reason, we don’t want that to be a laboratory, it can’t be a laboratory for terror,” Trump said, speaking before boarding Air Force One in New Jersey.
“And we have things under control, very well with a small force. We can probably make it a little bit smaller and then we’ll decide. It’ll depend on the Taliban. It will depend on the Afghan government. But there is a case to be made and the case also is that we’re going to be leaving very significant intelligence behind for just the reasons I stated,” Trump said.
About 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan security forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations.
“And we have a very very good view. I mean some things are going to be announced over the next couple of weeks as to what happened, who's been taken out. A lot of people have been taken out that were very bad, both ISIS and al-Qaeda,” he added.
The Taliban has been fighting to expel foreign forces and re-establish a theocratic Islamic state since its ousting in October 2001, weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Both US negotiators and the Taliban have reported progress after eight rounds of talks since late last year.
Trump has made no secret of his desire for a US pullout from Afghanistan and an end to America’s longest war.