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Trump team working on Afghan peace deal

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other members of the national security team briefed President Donald Trump on Friday on the state of peace negotiations in Afghanistan, with Pompeo saying afterward that “led by the president, we are working diligently on the path forward.”

Trump, who is spending most of the week at his golf club in New Jersey, has long been skeptical of the need to keep 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.

Trump tweeted after the meeting: “Many on the opposite side of this 19 year war, and us, are looking to make a deal – if possible!”

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said other participants in the meeting included Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Also present were national security adviser John Bolton, Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the envoy who has led the U.S. side in talks with the Taliban. Gidley said the meeting “went very well, and negotiations are proceeding.”

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.

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 re-emergence of radical Islamist groups who wish to attack the American homeland.”

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.

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