President Donald Trump said he wants to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan but is concerned that without an American military presence, the country could be used as a base for terrorist attacks on the United States.
In an interview to Fox News on Monday, Trump said the problem with pulling the 9,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the site of America’s longest war, is that the country is a “lab for terrorists.”
“I call it the Harvard of terrorists,” Trump said.
“I would leave very strong intelligence there,” Trump told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson in a wide-ranging interview that aired Monday night.
Trump said he’d like to “get out” of Afghanistan but added that it is a country with “a lot of good hiding places” and needs to be watched.
His comments follow reports of the Taliban pushing to rewrite a draft agreement under which the U.S. would withdraw troops from Afghanistan in exchange for pledges that Taliban leaders would help combat terrorism.
The interview with Trump was taped over the weekend, prior to Monday’s truck bomb attack by Taliban insurgents fighters that killed six people and wounded 105 in Kabul.
The attack took place at a time when U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held a seventh round of peace talks on Monday with the Taliban in Qatar, aimed at bringing the 18-year-old war to an end.
The focus of the peace talks has been a Taliban demand that foreign forces leave and a U.S. demand for a guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for attacks elsewhere.
Following third day of talks, Zalmay Khalilzad thanked Germany and Qatar in a tweet for agreeing to host the upcoming July 7-8 intra-Afghan Dialogue Conference.
“This dialogue is an essential element of the four-part peace framework & an important step in advancing the Afghan Peace Process,” he said.
He further added that, mutual acceptance, seeking consensus, and agreeing to resolve political differences without force is what is needed to learn from the tragedy of the last 40 years.