Taliban vow war if US prolongs stay
AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban on Saturday warned of a prolonged war in
Afghanistan if any foreign troops stay after the end of 2014, as Kabul
and Washington prepare to discuss the “residual” US security presence.
President Barack Obama and President Hamid Karzai will hold talks in
the US next week on a long-term security pact between the two countries,
with US troops remaining in Afghanistan at the top of the agenda.
“If America wants to leave a small or large number of its troops for
whatever length of time then it means war and destruction will continue
in the region for that same length,” the Taliban said in a statement.
“If Karzai and the Kabul regime agree with the presence of even a
single American soldier then, just as presently, they shall also be
responsible for all future hostilities, casualties and destruction.” The
latest media reports suggest the US Department of Defense has prepared
plans that leave either 3,000, 6,000 or 9,000 troops in the country,
focused on striking at Al-Qaeda militants.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the slimmed-down force
would focus on preventing Al-Qaeda, which was sheltered by the 1996-2001
Taliban government, from regaining a foothold in the war-shattered
Troops would also continue training the Afghan army and police, who
will be responsible for national security more than a decade after a
US-led alliance ousted the Taliban regime.
General John Allen, commander of US and NATO forces, had earlier
suggested leaving up to 15,000 troops, and the new forecasts would mean
scrapping a plan for diplomatic posts across Afghanistan, the Wall
Street Journal said.
Fewer soldiers would also heighten US reliance on drones to monitor
and target militants after most manned aircraft and their pilots pull
out, the paper added. The NATO coalition, which has been fighting an
insurgency by Taliban Islamists since 2001, reduced troop numbers by
about 30,000 in 2012 and is due to end its mission by the end of 2014.
The 100,000 international forces still in Afghanistan are mentoring
the army and police to gradually take over all security duties, while
the Afghan government has appointed negotiators to open peace talks with