Merkley pessimistic about Afghanistan mission

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan hasn't made U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley any more optimistic about American military operations there.

The Oregon Democrat told reporters Thursday that he continues to believe the U.S. mission in Afghanistan should be scaled back. He says the trip made him concerned about the stability of Afghanistan's financial institutions. A top Afghan prosecutor has said as many as 40 people may have been involved in scams to bilk hundreds of millions of dollars from the Kabul Bank.

Merkley has called for the United States to remove regular forces from Afghanistan by the end of next year. He says the U.S.-led coalition has successfully toppled the Taliban government and shouldn't continue a costly nation-building mission.

The trip was Merkley's second stop in Afghanistan as a senator.