The American “footprint” and the level of violence in Afghanistan have increased sharply since 2009.
The Taliban has dismissed President Barack Obama’s announcement of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan as “only as a symbolic step,” in a statement released on Thursday.
The Taliban “considers this announcement, which currently withdraws 10,000 soldiers this year, only as a symbolic step which will never satisfy the war-weary international community or the American people,” it said.
The statement accused the US of “repeatedly giving false hopes to its nation about ending this war and claiming baselessly about victory”.
Hillary Clinton countered during a statement at the US congress on Thursday, saying that “despite the many challenges that remain, life is better for most Afghans”.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that Obama had made the right decision with his drawdown plan.
“The Afghan people’s trust in the Afghan army and police is growing every day and preservation of this land is the job of Afghans,” Karzai told a news conference.
“I welcome the decision of the US president today on pulling out (some of) … its troops from Afghanistan and I consider this a right decision for the interest of both countries,” he said.
Obama’s plan to begin withdrawing the extra forces he put in place in 2009 would see 10,000 troops depart this year, beginning in July, and another 23,000 next summer.
The US currently has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. After the drawdown, around 68,000 will remain, but they will leave at a “steady pace,” and by 2014 the United States will have turned over security responsibility to Afghan forces, Obama said.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Kabul, said the immediate reaction from people in Afghanistan was disappointment.
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“A lot of Afghans feel that the Americans are leaving them mid-fight – they feel there is still a fight to be fought against the Taliban here,” he said.
“It’s nearly 10 years ago that the Americans took just two weeks to remove the Taliban from power, and in that time the Taliban have come back.”
“Some in leadership of the Afghan government have been putting on a brave face on this. They believe that their army and police are, in some places, in a position to take over the security responsibility.”
The Obama administration has argued that the surge has helped force the Taliban to accept negotiations with NATO forces and the Afghan government, led by President Hamid Karzai.
In his speech, Obama said that only a political settlement that involves the Taliban would bring peace to Afghanistan.
But it is still unclear whether the Taliban will join talks while US forces remain on Afghan territory.
The post-surge fighting against the Taliban led to a spike in US casualties: 650 of the roughly 1,600 American soldiers who have been killed since 2001 have died in the past 18 months.
Many more Afghan civilians have died – at least 9,759 since 2006, according to the United Nations.