President Donald Trump continued to say Tuesday that the US is talking to the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban and he is “looking at different things” in the region.
Speaking at the White House, Trump lamented that US involvement in the country for 18 years, which he described as more of a “police force,” is “ridiculous,” and repeated a claim that the US “could win that war in a week if we wanted to” but that he does not “want to kill 10 million people, 10 million Afghans … because that’s what would have to happen and I’m not looking to do that.”
Trump said the US is “bringing some of our troops back but we have to have a presence.”
The area “does seem to be the Harvard University of terrorism,” Trump said.
“We’ve been a peacekeeper there, in a way, for 19 years and at a certain point you have to say that’s long enough,” he said, describing visiting wounded veterans at Walter Reed military hospital who have served in Afghanistan.
He said the US is “negotiating – we’ll see what happens,” but that the Taliban could stop unrest in the region “very easily.”
Trump met with top national security advisers last week at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, to review a US-Taliban peace plan that could end America’s longest-running war.
The State Department announced on Tuesday that its Taliban negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad was traveling to Doha and Afghanistan to continue discussions with the Taliban and Afghan government, respectively, on the peace process.
The plan is expected to formalize a significant withdrawal of US forces – from about 15,000 troops to 8,000 or 9,000 – and enshrine official commitments by the Taliban to counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan, according to multiple sources familiar with the plan.
While the deal will include other elements, including a US-Taliban ceasefire, it has at least one crucial omission: It is not expected to secure a commitment by the Taliban to hold their fire on the Afghan people or the Afghan military, according to sources familiar with the talks.
The Taliban do not recognize the Afghan government, which has not been involved in the talks the US has been holding with the extremist Islamic movement in Qatar.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc, Kylie Atwood, Jennifer Hansler and Nick Paton Walsh contributed to this report