Trump wants to pull troops from Afghanistan but says it's still a 'lab for terrorists'

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A U.S. Marine with Task Force Southwest patrols through a village near Bost Kalay, Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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 on Fox News broadcast 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.

He recounted conversations he had with U.S. military officials telling them of his desire to remove troops. He said they warned him it would be better to fight terrorists in Afghanistan than at home.

"'Sir, I'd rather attack them over there, then attack them in our land,'" Trump said a general had told him. "It's something you always have to think about," Trump said.

Even if the United States did remove its troops, Trump said, it would leave a "very strong intelligence" presence in Afghanistan.

The interview with Trump was taped over the weekend, prior to Monday's truck bomb attack by Taliban Islamist fighters that killed six people and wounded 105 in Kabul.

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.

The United States went to war in Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon, seeking to oust the Taliban militants harboring Saudi-born al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who led plans to carry out the attacks. About 2,400 U.S. forces have been killed in the conflict.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Peter Cooney)

The Pentagon has identified the two soldiers were killed in combat in Afghanistan on Wednesday as members of U.S. Army Special Forces.

Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, and Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, both died in Faryab Province from wounds sustained from small arms fire, the Pentagon said in a press release. The incident is under investigation.

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A series of blasts in the past few weeks have hit weapon depots and bases belonging to paramilitary groups in Iraq, many of them backed by Israel's regional foe Iran. The groups blamed the United States and Israel for the blasts on Wednesday.

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White House/Shealah Craighead

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that will make it easier for permanently disabled veterans to have their student loan debt forgiven.

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Capt. Tranay Lashawn Tanner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Physical fitness tests were briefly suspended earlier this week and outdoor cardio testing will be curtailed for the remainder of the summer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, after an airman died Saturday. She had completed her PT test on Friday.

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(DoD photo)

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has expanded a review of the Judge Advocate General Corps to include the Marine Corps, a Navy spokesman said on Thursday.

"There is value in applying this review and its subsequent recommendations across the Department of the Navy," Cmdr. Jereal Dorsey told Task & Purpose. "The review's purpose is to confirm the uniformed legal community is structurally and organizationally sound and best supporting the good order and discipline our integrated naval force."

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