Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks after offering Eid al-Adha prayers at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Ghani is urging the nation to determine its fate without foreign interference as the United States and the Taliban appear to near a peace deal without the Afghan government at the table.(AP Photo/Nishanuddin Khan)

AP Source: Officials to brief Trump on Afghanistan talks

August 16, 2019 - 2:48 pm

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration officials plan to brief President Donald Trump Friday on the state of peace negotiations in Afghanistan, a U.S. official said.

Trump, who is spending most of the week at his golf club in New Jersey, has long been skeptical of the need to continue a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have been fighting since 2001. The war has taken more than 2,400 American lives.

The official who described the planned meeting was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The latest round of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States ended early Monday without final resolution. Both sides said they would consult with their leadership on the next steps toward a deal, which is intended to lead to direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

A White House official downplayed expectations of any announcement coming from Friday's session, saying Pompeo meets with Trump every week on global matters. The official was not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly.

The State Department and the Pentagon declined to comment on the meeting.

Trump has complained that U.S. forces in Afghanistan serve as "policemen." That description irks Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who urged the president to listen to his national security team.

"American service members are not acting as policemen in Afghanistan," Graham said. "They are the front-line defense for America against the reemergence of radical Islamist groups who wish to attack the American homeland."

The U.S. and the Taliban appear to be closing in on an agreement under which U.S. forces would withdraw in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not become a haven for other terrorist groups.

The U.S. has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. They mainly advise and assist Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State group's Afghan affiliate and other extremist groups, including al-Qaida.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the envoy who has led the U.S. side in talks with the Taliban, has prioritized getting the Taliban to agree to intra-Afghan talks and to a permanent cease-fire. But the Taliban have continued to sideline the Kabul government, which it dismisses as a U.S. puppet, and it has not agreed to a permanent cease-fire.

The Taliban have kept up a near-daily rate of deadly attacks, despite holding several rounds of talks with Khalilzad since his appointment almost a year ago. The Taliban now control roughly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since 2001, when the U.S.-led invasion toppled their government after it harbored al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

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Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

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