- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 18, 2019

President Trump said Sunday he wants to withdraw more U.S. troops from Afghanistan but leave behind a significant intelligence-gathering operation to prevent the nation from becoming “a laboratory for terror” again.

“We’re there for one reason, we don’t want that to be a laboratory … It can’t be a laboratory for terror,” the president told reporters in New Jersey after he held meetings on a U.S.-Taliban peace plan. “We’re having very good discussions with the Taliban. We’re having very good discussions with the Afghan government. We’ll decide whether or not we’ll be staying longer or not.”

Afghanistan was a base for al Qaeda’s plot to attack the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, leading to America’s longest-running war. The peace plan is expected to cause the U.S. to reduce its force there from about 15,000 troops to around 8,000.

“We’ve really got it down to, probably, 13,000 people,” Mr. Trump said. “And we’ll be bringing it down a little bit more, and then we’ll decide whether or not we’ll be staying longer or not. I think it’s very important that we continue intelligence there, in all cases, because it is somewhat of a nest for hitting us. So there’s a big argument to be made [for keeping a U.S. presence]. And I buy that argument. We’re like a police force, and that’s it, frankly. We have it very much under control as far as what we’re doing.”

The negotiations would include a ceasefire but are not expected to reach a commitment by the Taliban to hold its fire on the Afghan people or the Afghan military, CNN reported. The Taliban do not recognize the Afghan government.

While the president said negotiations are going well, he added, “I’m not trusting anybody. It’s a horrible situation that’s going on in Afghanistan.”

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