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THE STANS
Taliban claim NATO 'defeat' in 13-year Afghan war
by Staff Writers
Kabul (AFP) Dec 29, 2014


The Taliban responded scornfully Monday 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, arranged in secret due to the threat of 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 organisations 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 United Nations 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 January 1 NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) 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".

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".

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THE STANS
Afghan soldiers at small outpost vow to hold firm as US exits
Zhari, Afghanistan (AFP) Dec 29, 2014
One ergonomic office chair, heaters that don't work and some maps are the only signs that US troops once battled daily with the Taliban at Siah Choy, a small combat outpost in southern Afghanistan. Now manned by just 30 Afghan soldiers, the base is in Kandahar province's Zhari district - the birthplace of the Taliban movement and scene of years of heavy fighting as NATO forces struggled to ... read more


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