Taliban mock US as Afghan war enters 12th year
08 October, 2012
KABUL: America's longest war entered its 12th year Sunday, with the anniversary marked by a Taliban statement claiming that NATO forces are "fleeing Afghanistan" in "humiliation and disgrace".
The US led the invasion on October 7, 2001, to topple the Taliban government for harbouring al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The Taliban were quickly routed, but launched an insurgency that grew in strength over the years until NATO had some 130,000 troops from 50 countries defending the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
The troops have now begun pulling out and all foreign combat forces will be gone by the end of 2014 according to a withdrawal schedule agreed by the US and NATO. "With the help of Allah, the valiant Afghans under the jihadi leadership of Islamic Emirate defeated the military might and numerous strategies of America and NATO alliance," the Taliban said in a statement Sunday.
"And now after eleven years of unceasing terror, tyranny, crimes and savagery, they are fleeing Afghanistan with such humiliation and disgrace that they are struggling to provide an explanation". A total of 3,199 NATO soldiers have been killed in the war, more than 2,000 of them Americans. Most deaths occurred in the past five years as Taliban attacks escalated, according to icasualties.com.
This year, official statistics showed that deaths in the Afghan security forces are running five times higher than those for NATO, as the Afghans take on increasing responsibilities before the Western withdrawal. The US and NATO say Afghan forces will be capable of taking over the fight against the Taliban after 2014, but many analysts predict a bloody new multi-factional civil war.
NATO is helping the Afghan government fight an insurgency by the Taliban, but they are due to pull out in 2014 and are increasingly working with Afghans they are training to take over. Green-on-blue attacks, in which Afghans turn their weapons against their foreign allies, have killed a total of 34 international soldiers this year, according to a NATO count.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had on Saturday voiced frustration with President Hamid Karzai for preferring to "criticise" American troops, rather than acknowledging the sacrifices they have made. Panetta told reporters aboard the military plane taking him to Lima that Karzai should remember that more than 2,000 US troops have died in Afghanistan. The angry riposte came after Karzai said on Thursday that the United States was failing to go after militants based in Pakistan, another charge that Panetta chose to hit back at.
Speaking at a press conference in Kabul, Karzai accused the United States of playing a "double game" by fighting a war against Afghan insurgents rather than their backers in Pakistan where, in Karzai's words, "terrorism is financed and manufactured." The Afghan president also lamented what he described as NATO's refusal to supply Afghanistan with modern weapons necessary to fight its enemies.
Meanwhile, two schoolchildren including a nine-year-old girl were shot dead by militants in Afghanistan after their father refused to quit his job as a policeman, officials said Sunday. Henna and her 16-year-old brother Zelgai were killed by two gunmen on motorcycles late on Saturday while in their father's car in the Edgah area of Ghazni province, in the south of the country.
"They were playing inside my car, and the Taliban maybe thought it was me in the car. They opened fire at the car and killed my children," the father, Zalmai, who uses just one name, told AFP. He said the Taliban had warned him several times in the past that his family would be at risk if he did not leave his job. "The children were killed by Taliban because their father is a policeman working for Ghazni's municipality," provincial spokesman Fazil Sabawoon said, blaming the insurgents for the attack. "They had warned him to leave his job as police and join them," he added. A witness, Hamidullah, told AFP that two gunmen on motorcycles opened fire at the vehicle the children were in and fled the area. Taliban militants often target Afghans who work for the government and Western organisations.