John Bolton doesn't seem like a sidelines kind of guy—but the hard-talking national security adviser appears headed that way as he opposes his boss yet again, the Washington Post reports. Their latest conflict? Afghanistan, where President Trump is considering a reduction in US troops if the Taliban will cut ties with al-Qaeda and stop them from training, fundraising, recruiting, and so on. Bolton opposes the Taliban talks and wasn't invited this month when Trump huddled with top officials to discuss Afghanistan at the president's golf club. Officials say they feared Bolton and his aides would oppose the deal and leak details to the media. "His team has a reputation for losing and leaking," says a top White House official.
Bolton later got into the meeting and did disagree with Trump. Bolton has also clashed with US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who's leading the talks and apparently refused to let Bolton have a copy of the draft agreement with the Taliban. One official said Bolton was enraged. "I can't think of another example where a national security adviser was sidelined like this," says an international security expert. But Bolton has already disagreed with Trump on Iran and North Korea—playing the hawk to Trump's quasi-dove—and maybe that helps. "I think Bolton loves it, and I think the president does too," the head of a think tank told the New York Times in May. "It opens up some diplomatic space for him to go back and forth between a very hard-line position and holding talks." (Read more John Bolton stories.)