Tue, Dec 30, 2014 - Page 1 News List

US-led mission in Afghanistan ends

AFP, KABUL

A soldier from the Dragon Company of the US Army’s Third Cavalry Regiment prepares for a mission on forward operating base Gamberi in Laghman Province, Afghanistan, on Sunday, as NATO brought the US-led war in the country to a close at a ceremony in Kabul.

Photo: Reuters

The Taliban yesterday responded scornfully to the formal end of NATO’s war in Afghanistan, describing the US-led mission as a “fire of barbarism and cruelty” that had drowned the country “in a pool of blood.”

The insurgent group issued the statement in English a day after NATO marked the closure of its combat mission with a low-key ceremony in Kabul, which was arranged in secret due to the threat of a Taliban attack.

“We consider this step a clear indication of their defeat and disappointment,” the Taliban said. “America, its invading allies ... along with all international arrogant organizations have been handed a clear-cut defeat in this lopsided war.”

The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, have fought a resilient insurgency against NATO and Afghan forces for 13 years, with violence now at record levels nationwide.

The UN said civilian casualties hit a new high this year, with about 10,000 non-combatants killed or wounded — 75 percent of them by the Taliban.

On Thursday, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force combat mission will be replaced by a “training and support” mission.

About 12,500 NATO troops will stay on in Afghanistan.

The Taliban statement said the group would fight on “for the establishment of a pure Islamic system by expelling the remaining invading forces unconditionally.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said he is open to peace talks, but the Taliban said it would “continue its jihad and struggle so long as a single foreigner remains in Afghanistan in a military uniform.”

US President Barack Obama on Sunday saluted the “milestone” end of NATO’s combat mission, but warned that the country remains “a dangerous place.”

“For more than 13 years, ever since nearly 3,000 innocent lives were taken from us on 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan,” he said in a statement. “Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”

Obama thanked the troops and intelligence workers who served in Afghanistan, crediting them with “devastating the core al-Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives.”

He then honored those wounded or killed, including the more than 2,200 US soldiers who lost their lives to make “this progress possible.”

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