Washington: The longest war in American history has come to a "responsible conclusion" with the withdrawal US and NATO combat forces from Afghanistan, US President Barack Obama has said but warned that the country remains "a dangerous place".
NATO's war in Afghanistan, fought for 13 years, came to a formal end yesterday with a flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul that marked the transition of the fighting from US-led combat troops to the country's own security forces.
In the 13 years since US forces landed in Kabul post 9/11 to throw out Taliban out of power, some 2,200 US troops lost their lives in the war against terror in Afghanistan.
"Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is? ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion," Obama said yesterday in a statement.
During these 13 years, Obama said, US troops have? "devastated the core of Al-Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives."
Thanking the troops and intelligence workers who served in Afghanistan, he said, "We are safer, and our nation is more secure, because of their service."
From January 1, the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat mission, will be replaced by a NATO "training and support" mission.
"We are safer, and our nation is more secure, because of their service. At the same time, our courageous military and diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan -- along with our NATO allies and coalition partners -- have helped the Afghan people reclaim their communities, take the lead for their own security, hold historic elections and complete the first democratic transfer of power in their country's history," he said.
Obama, however, warned that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and the Afghan people and their security forces continue to make tremendous sacrifices in defence of their country.
"At the invitation of the Afghan government, and to preserve the gains we have made together, the US along with our allies and partners will maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist Afghan forces and to conduct counter terrorism operations against the remnants of Al-Qaeda," he said.
"Our personnel will continue to face risks, but this reflects the enduring commitment of the US to the Afghan people and to a united, secure and sovereign Afghanistan that is never again used as a source of attacks against our nation," said the US President.
Under a bilateral agreement with Kabul, about 12,500 foreign troops will remain in Afghanistan. They will not be involved in direct fighting, but will assist the Afghan army and police in their battle against the Taliban, who ruled from 1996 until 2001.