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Kabul welcomes US troop withdrawal plan

13 February 2013, 15:03

Kabul - The Afghan government on Wednesday welcomed President Barack Obama's announcement that the United States will withdraw 34 000 troops from the war-torn country over the next year.

"We welcome this," defence ministry spokesperson General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said. "We will take all security responsibilities by the end of 2013.

"Our troops will replace them."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has long supported the scheduled withdrawal of US and Nato combat troops by the end of 2014, saying Afghan forces are capable of taking responsibility for the fight against Taliban insurgents.

Obama, who made the troop withdrawal announcement during his State of the Union address, said the drawdown would continue and "by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over".

The Taliban dismissed the troop pull-out as insufficient.

"The problem is not going to be solved with reducing or increasing the number of troops," Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said.

"As long as the invading forces remain in Afghanistan, the jihad [holy war] continues. The problem is solved with the complete withdrawal of the invading forces and returning Afghanistan back to Afghans."

Obama's move effectively halves the size of the current 66 000-strong US force in Afghanistan, as Nato troops prepare to hand over control for security operations to about 352 000 Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.

Nato, which has about 37 000 troops in Afghanistan, will also withdraw them in stages before the end of 2014.



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