KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan on Monday declared the “defeat” of the U.S. and its allies in the 13-year-old war, a day after the coalition officially marked the end of its combat mission.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is shifting to a support mission for Afghan army and police more than a decade after an international alliance ousted the Taliban government for sheltering the planners of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on American cities.
“ISAF rolled up its flag in an atmosphere of failure and disappointment without having achieved anything substantial or tangible,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an statement emailed on Monday.
About 13,000 foreign troops, mostly Americans, will remain in the country under a new, two-year mission named “Resolute Support” that will continue the coalition’s training of Afghan security forces to fight the insurgents, who have killed record numbers of Afghans this year.
While the U.S. and its allies say the Afghan army and police have been able to prevent the Taliban from taking significant territory, violence has shot up as the insurgents seek to gain ground.
For Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, keeping government control of territory and preventing security from further deteriorating is a top priority.
Vowing to restore their former hard-line Islamist regime, Taliban spokesman Mujahid vowed that “the demoralized American-built forces will constantly be dealt defeats just like their masters”.
The Taliban have launched increasingly deadly attacks this year. Nearly 3,200 Afghan civilians were killed in the conflict between the militant group and the army in 2014, and more than 4,600 Afghan army and police died in Taliban attacks.
Since 2001, nearly 3,500 foreign soldiers have been killed in the war, including around 2,200 Americans.
(This version of the story fixes formatting garble in the penultimate paragraph.)
Reporting by Kay Johnson; Editing by Nick Macfie