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Afghanistan says coalition forces to start withdrawal in October

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DUSHANBE, July 9 (RIA Novosti) - The Afghan interior minister told a news conference in Tajikistan on Wednesday that international troops would start withdrawing from Afghanistan this October.

NATO is responsible for the 52,000-strong International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), a security and development mission in the country.

Since 2006, ISAF personnel have been taking an active role in combat operations after its area of responsibility was stretched to the whole country in 2003. Of late, the forces have been suffering from a spate of terrorist attacks.

"The government of Afghanistan has backed the initiative of the parliament to begin the withdrawal of the ISAF as soon as October this year," said Ahmad Moqbel Zarar, who arrived in Tajikistan on Tuesday for a four-day working visit at the invitation of his Tajik counterpart.

Commenting on the suicide attack at the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which killed 41 people and injured around 140 more, the minister said: "Without doubt, the blast was planned in terrorist camps in certain neighbor countries."

The ISAF troops and civilian personnel provided by around 40 countries, were initially responsible for securing the capital of Kabul and surrounding areas from attacks and creating conditions necessary to set the Afghan Transitional Administration headed by Hamid Karzai.

More than 860 coalition personnel in ISAF and Operation Enduring Freedom have been killed since October 2001. Over 2,000 U.S. personnel are reported to have been wounded.

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