WASHINGTON - Stacey Abrams, who lost her race last year to be governor of Georgia, delivered the Democrats' response to US president Donald Trump's state of the Union speech this morning.

The first African-American woman to give the party's rebuttal, Ms Abrams said: "The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people - but our values."

She also said that while she is "disappointed" with Mr Trump, "I still don't want him to fail."

Democratic female lawmakers who attended Mr Trump's speech wore white to celebrate the 100th anniversary of American women gaining the right to vote.

They sat stony-faced as their Republican counterparts rose for the applause lines.

But Democrats surprised Mr Trump with a standing ovation when he said there were more women in the workforce and in Congress than ever before.

"That's great!" said the president, delighted by their reaction. "Really great."

Mr Trump said his administration was holding "constructive talks" with the Taliban to find a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

"The hour has come to at least try for peace," he added.

The president also said "virtually all" of the territory once occupied in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State group had been liberated from "these bloodthirsty monsters".

"It is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home," he told the chamber.

He said 7,000 US troops had died and more than $7tn (£5.4tn) had been spent by America on nearly two decades of war in the Middle East.

"Great nations do not fight endless wars," said the president, who campaigned on an 'America First' platform.

The president devoted much of his speech to border security, vowing once again to build a US-Mexico barrier and calling illegal immigration "an urgent national crisis".

But he refrained from declaring a national emergency that might allow him to bypass Congress for wall funding.

With another government shutdown deadline impending on 15 February, the president has few options to deliver his signature campaign promise.

Mr Trump told his audience that working-class Americans pay the price for illegal immigration.

Despite the president's call for unity, the reception from Democrats was frosty for most of the evening.

Meanwhile, Republicans shouted their approval - especially when Mr Trump talked about the wall along the southern border.

When the president said: "The state of our union is strong", members of his party stood and chanted: "USA!"

The Democrats stayed seated. But then the mood changed.

As the president noted the record number of women in Congress, Democrats gave a standing ovation - and they began shouting: "USA!"

Republicans joined in - they all chanted together.(FA)