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Taliban dismiss ‘symbolic’ US troop withdrawal

Desk Report: The Afghan Taliban said on Thursday a US plan to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year was only symbolic and that more serious steps were needed “to stop this pointless bloodshed”.

“Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again wants to make it clear that the solution for the Afghan crisis lies in the full withdrawal of all foreign troops immediately and if this does not happen, our armed struggle will increase from day to day,” the Taliban said in a statement emailed to media.

The statement, emailed to media by Taliban spokesman Tariq Ghazniwal, also accused the United States of “repeatedly giving false hopes to its nation about ending this war and claiming baselessly about victory”.

The Taliban said the solution to the Afghan crisis “lies in the full withdrawal of all foreign troops immediately” and said that until that happened “our armed struggle will increase from day to day”.

It made no reference to contacts with the Americans. Afghan president Hamid Karzai announced last week talks were underway and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said US officials are involved in preliminary talks with the Taliban.

The militants accused Obama of having “no respect” for demands to end the war given US-Afghan government negotiations over a strategic partnership agreement which will forge a long-term relationship between the two.

Obama announced Wednesday that 10,000 US troops would leave Afghanistan this year and all 33,000 forces sent as part of a surge ordered in late 2009 would be home by next summer.

As he made the announcement, he said that “the tide of war is receding” and “the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.”

The Taliban are leading an insurgency against foreign troops in Afghanistan which started in 2001 when they were ousted from power by a US-led invasion.

Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday his nation’s youth will stand up and defend the country as the US begins to pull troops out, while the Taliban promised to fight as long as foreign soldiers remain there.

Karzai spoke briefly from the presidential palace Thursday morning after US President Barack Obama announced he would bring 33,000 US troops home by next summer. Karzai thanked international troops for their support and said “the people of Afghanistan will be protecting their homeland.”

“The transition of the security and the withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan means the Afghan forces must be strengthened,” Karzai said.

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