The US and Nato have closed their combat command in Afghanistan, more than 13 years after invading the country in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks to target al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
Though quickly routing the Taliban-led government that sheltered the militants, the US-led coalition soon found itself spending billions rebuilding a country devastated by almost 30 years of war while an insurgency grew as the invasion and occupation of Iraq quickly took America’s attention.
As Nato’s International Security Assistance Force’s Joint Command, which was in charge of combat operations, lowered its flag yesterday and formally ended its deployment, resurgent Taliban militants launched yet another bloody attack in the country.
And with US President Barack Obama allowing American troops to go after both al-Qaida and Taliban militants in the country into next year, it is unlikely that the fighting will be over soon. “I don’t think the war will slow or stop during the winter, as attacks on cities are not contingent on the weather,” Afghan political analyst Wahid Muzhdah said. “I believe attacks in the cities will increase – they attract media attention.”
Yesterday’s ceremony in Kabul saw the Nato flag of the command folded and put away amid the foreign troop withdrawal. From January 1, the coalition will maintain a force of 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of around 140,000 in 2011. As of December 1, there were some 13,300 Nato troops in the country.
US Gen John F Campbell, commander of Nato and US forces, said foreign troops will now focus on training and supporting local Afghan forces, which have led the fight against the Taliban insurgents since mid-2013.