US President Donald Trump to meet advisers on Afghanistan peace plan

US President Donald Trump. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Washington, United States , New Jersey, United States Aug 16, 2019, 09.23 PM (IST)

US President Donald Trump on Friday was to meet US top advisers about negotiations with the Taliban and the potential for a political settlement that could prompt withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, a senior administration official said.

On a working vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump was to receive an afternoon briefing from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other advisers to get updated on the talks, which have been handled by Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad.

The US military presence in Afghanistan dates to 2001 when then-President George W. Bush launched an offensive against Al Qaeda, which the Taliban government had given haven to, after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Trump has been adamant that he would like to withdraw US forces, possibly ahead of the November 2020 election, although a pullout would raise concerns among some in the national security community that the United States could be sacrificing gains it has made there.

US Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump ally, said any deal should allow for the United States to maintain a presence in Afghanistan.

"Any peace agreement which denies the US a robust counter-terrorism capability in Afghanistan is not a peace deal," he said in a statement. "Instead, it is paving the way for another attack on the American homeland and attacks against American interests around the world."

The senior administration official said a decision was not necessarily expected from the Bedminster meeting, but Trump "has been pretty clear that he wants to bring the troops home."

The negotiations with the Taliban have been centred around a potential agreement for a US troop withdrawal and talks on a political settlement between the insurgents and a delegation comprising government officials, opposition leaders and civil society members.

Khalilzad also has pressed in nine rounds of negotiations in Qatar for the Taliban to renounce al Qaida, agree to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for extremist attacks and embrace a nationwide ceasefire while the intra-Afghan talks continue.

Both sides raised expectations that an agreement was close. Khalilzad repeatedly has said nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

Story highlights

US Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump ally, said any deal should allow for the United States to maintain a presence in Afghanistan.