Afghanistan’s Karzai welcomes US military withdrawal plans

KABUL: President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday welcomed US plans to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016, and called on Taliban insurgents to seize the opportunity to seek peace.

Outlining the US strategy to end America’s longest war, 15 years after the September 11 attacks, President Barack Obama confirmed Tuesday that the 32,000-strong US deployment in Afghanistan would be scaled back to around 9,800 by the start of 2015.

Those forces would be halved by the end of 2015 before eventually being reduced to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance component by the end of 2016.

“Ending the US military presence, and assumption of security affairs by the Afghan forces has been a main demand of the president, the government and the people of Afghanistan,” Karzai said in a statement.

He urged the insurgents to “use this historic opportunity… so that the war, which was launched (by the Taliban) on the pretext of the presence of foreign soldiers, ends”.

“The Afghan government thanks the international community for their assistance and is confident that, as proven throughout the history, Afghan security forces will guard the security of people and the territorial integrity of the country,” the statement said.