US mulls leaving intelligence in Afghan after troop withdrawal

Washington: The US is considering leaving "significant intelligence" assets behind after withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan as it does not want the war-torn country to become a "laboratory for terror", President Donald Trump has said.

Trump's comments come after he met with top national security advisers to review a US-Taliban peace plan that could end America's longest running war.

"We're talking to Afghanistan, both the government and also talking to the Taliban, having very good discussions. We'll see what happens. We've really got it down to, probably, 13,000 people.

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," Trump told reporters. Responding to a question, Trump said that it is very important that the US continue intelligence there.

"Because it is somewhat of a nest for hitting us. If you look at what happened with the World Trade (Tower), it essentially came out of Afghanistan," he said.

"We have things under control very well with a small force. We can probably make it a little bit smaller, and then we'll decide. It'll depend on the Taliban.

It'll depend on the Afghan government. But there is a case to be made. And the case also is that we're going to be leaving very significant intelligence behind for just the reasons I stated," said the US president.

Trump said that the US went to Afghanistan to stop terrorism coming from there. Look, we're there for one reason: We don't want that to be a laboratory. It can't be a laboratory for terror. And we've stopped that, and we have a very, very good view," he said.

He said "some things are going to be announced over the next couple of weeks. The Taliban and the US have held talks in Qatar several times this year to formulate a deal, ahead of an informal September deadline, and the broad outlines of an agreement are now thought to be fixed.

The framework would allow for a phased withdrawal of US troops, with the Taliban committed in return to severing ties with al-Qaeda, and to preventing them and other extremist groups from operating in, or from, areas they control.

By Lalit K Jha

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