Taliban claims victory as NATO withdraws from Afghanistan

Kabul: The Taliban Monday claimed victory following the end of the 13-year-long combat mission in Afghanistan led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Sunday formally ended its 13-year-old combat mission in Afghanistan.

"We have not been defeated, we have not signed any agreement with the United States to conclude the war. So where is the sense that America put an end to the war? This means that the US and its allies have been completely defeated and are fleeing from the battlefield," Taliban spokesman Zabiul Mujahid said.

The ISAF mission, which began after the invasion that ended the Taliban regime in 2001, came to a close after the death of 3,485 soldiers, 2,356 of them Americans.

According to Mujahid, deaths in their own ranks stand at 20,000.

A ceremony in Kabul Sunday marked the completion of the gradual withdrawal of international troops and transfer of security to the Afghan army and police.

The official end to the ISAF combat mission will be at midnight Dec 31, but NATO will continue its presence in the country with the "Resolute Support" mission, which will begin Jan 1, 2015.

For Mujahid, changing the name of the mission amounted to camouflaging NATO's defeat to mislead the people of the allied countries for having killed thousands of their soldiers and squandering millions of dollars.

"We still delude ourselves. Our brave nation will continue its holy war until the last foreigner leaves Afghanistan," said Mujahid, who regretted at having to threaten the Afghan security forces in the absence of any other alternative.

NATO's mission "Resolute Support" and the security agreement signed between Afghanistan and the US sanction the presence of 10,800 US soldiers and another 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers of the Atlantic Alliance against the maximum of 140,000 foreign troops in 2011.

In a statement made public Monday, the Taliban explained that the withdrawal of ISAF showed that perhaps the nations that invaded Afghanistan finally realised that the mission in Afghanistan was "the most idiotic decision of modern history".

Afghanistan is going through one of the most difficult times since the US invasion that put an end to the Taliban regime, with a recent increase in insurgent attacks and the number of civilian casualties.

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