14:59 GMT13 May 2021
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    NATO formally ended its 13-year mission in Afghanistan with a ceremony held in Kabul amid fears of growing insurgency in the country.

    MOSCOW, December 28 (Sputnik) – NATO-led forces in Afghanistan formally ended their military engagement on December 28 with a ceremony held at their military headquarters in Kabul, the Associated Press reports.

    On January 1, the Resolute Support mission will replace the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), created in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US to tackle insurgency in Afghanistan. Resolute Support is a non-combat NATO-led mission, which will be tasked with training and mentoring Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Approximately 13,500 NATO soldiers, mostly from the US, will remain in the country.

    "Together… we have lifted the Afghan people out of the darkness of despair and given them hope for the future," General John Campbell told NATO soldiers at the ceremony, as quoted by AFP. "You've made Afghanistan stronger and our countries safer," he stated.

    "The road before us remains challenging, but we will triumph," he added, according to ISAF’s official Twitter account.

    General Hans-Lothar Domröse, commander of Allied Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, called ISAF "an organization filled with heroes who traveled far from their homelands to defend and support Afghanistan."

    ISAF was 140,000 troops strong at its peak, according to the Associate Press. The death toll of the mission reached 3,500, with 2,224 US soldiers killed since 2001.

    "The US and NATO mission was an absolute failure as today’s ceremony shows," Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told AFP. "They are fleeing from Afghanistan. They have not reached their goals in defeating the Afghan mujahideen, but they are keeping some forces here to reach their vicious aims," he stated.

    The end of the mission comes amid fears of growing insurgency in the country. A record number of civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2014 by the end of November, according to the UN. In the same timeframe, Afghan security forces lost over 4,600 people, as reported by AFP.

    "The ISAF mission hasn't solved the main problem in Afghanistan," said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the "Afghan Analyst Network" based in Kabul and Berlin, as quoted by Deutsche Welle. "The war is not over yet, dismantling the Taliban came to nothing, insurgences have spread across the entire country, and since 2010 the level of violence in Afghanistan is higher than in all previous years," he added.

    "Yes, there are threats, but we don’t want others to carry our burden forever," said Major General Afzal Aman, chief of operations at the Afghan Ministry of Defense, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal. "We are responsible for our own country," he stated.

    The ANSF, numbering almost 350,000 people, consists of the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police and the Afghan Air Force. The Afghan forces have been responsible for the country’s security since the summer of 2013.


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