'Very good discussions' with Taliban, Afghan government: Trump

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on August 18, 2019 - Duration: 01:42s

'Very good discussions' with Taliban, Afghan government: Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday expressed optimism as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.

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'Very good discussions' with Taliban, Afghan government: Trump

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EXISTING GRAPHICS MAY BE OVERWRITTEN BY CLIENT'S OWN GRAPHICS BUT NO FURTHER EDITS ARE PERMITTED, INCLUDING FOR LENGTH** U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday said his administration was having 'very good discussions' with the Taliban and the Afghan government as the U.S. tries to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. troops in exchange for a Taliban commitment on peace with Afghanistan.

"We've really got (U.S. troop levels) down to probably 13,000 people and we'll be bringing it (U.S. troops) number down a little bit more and then we'll decide if we'll be staying longer or not," Trump said in Morristown, New Jersey as he headed back to Washington.

"We're having very good discussions with the Taliban, we're having very good discussions with the Afghan government." The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees to a pact with the United States.

Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks.

They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.

The U.S. special envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the attack showed the need to accelerate efforts to reach a deal with the Taliban, to help defeat Islamic State.

Trump on Sunday called the attack "horrible" and expressed optimism at the state of talks.

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.

About 14,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan security forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations.

Islamic State has claimed some of the bloodiest attacks in Afghan cities over the past couple of years, with some aimed at the Shi'ite minority.

The Sunni Muslim group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi'ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels." The Taliban earlier denied responsibility for the blast and condemned it.

More than 180 people were wounded, with many women and children among the casualties, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on Sunday as grieving families thronged to Kabul's crowded cemeteries.

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