World News

US, NATO ceremonially end Afghan combat mission

Posted December 8, 2014

— The U.S. and NATO ceremonially ended their combat mission in Afghanistan on Monday, 13 years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks sparked their invasion of the country to topple the Taliban-led government.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, which was in charge of combat operations, lowered its flag, formally ending its deployment.

U.S. Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of NATO and U.S. forces, said that the mission now would transition to a training and support role for Afghanistan's own security forces, which have led the fight against the Taliban insurgents since mid-2013.

"The Afghan security forces are capable," Campbell said. "They have to make some changes in the leadership which they're doing, and they have to hold people accountable."

From Jan. 1, the coalition will maintain a force of 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak around 140,000 in 2011. There are around 15,000 troops now in the country.

Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson and Command Sergeant Major Isaia Vimoto are expected lead the final group of about 20 paratroopers of the XVIII Airborne Corps home to Fort Bragg on Monday, along with the official colors of the Corps. About 100 members of the corps returned to the North Carolina post last Friday.

Monday's return marks a historical end to the XVIII Airborne Corps mission in Afghanistan, which began in 2002 as the first – and now final – corps to serve as the International Joint Command there.

The mission ends as the Taliban is increasing its attacks. U.S. President Barack Obama recently allowed U.S. forces to launch operations against both Taliban and al-Qaida militants, broadening the mission of the U.S. forces that will remain in the country after the end of the year.

Violence continued Monday in the country, as suicide bombers launched an assault on a police station in southern Kandahar province. Police killed three suicide bombers, said Samim Akhplwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. He said casualty figures were unclear.

Campbell said that Afghan security forces, including the army, police and local militias, were capable of securing the country despite record-high casualty figures that have risen 6.5 percent this year, to 4,634 killed in action, compared to 4,350 in 2013. By comparison, some 3,500 foreign forces, including at least 2,210 American soldiers, have been killed since the war began in 2001.

Up to 10,800 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan for the first three months of next year, 1,000 more than previously planned as the new mission, called Resolute Support, waits for NATO partners to deploy, said a NATO official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss troop deployments.

As a result, there will be little, if any, net drop in U.S. troop numbers between now and Dec. 31. By the end of 2015, however, the U.S. troop total is to shrink to 5,500, and to near zero by the end of 2016.

Monday's ceremony was the first of two that will draw a formal close to NATO's combat mission by Dec. 28.

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  • Jeremy Gilchrist Dec 8, 2014
    user avatar

    Support your defense industry and wall street! Support endless war! Take heart we are simply entering the next phase of it.

  • ncprr1 Dec 8, 2014

    Hey, great...so, "Mission Accomplished" huh??

  • iopsyc Dec 8, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Resolute Support

  • Mary Dodd Dec 8, 2014
    user avatar

    So we are ending our combat mission and now providing only training and support, special ops support, and sometimes, air and ground support? I hope the other side recognizes our troops are only there to provide "support," so they shouldn't be shot at.

  • jenniegreen Dec 8, 2014

    Then bring them all home rather than trying to convince the American public it is all over...like they did with Iraq.

  • The Real Truth Dec 8, 2014

    The constant mix messages from our leaders in Washington are taking a serious toll on our military.

    This story does a terrific job breaking everything down.

    http://www.militarytimes.com/longform/military/2014/12/07/americas-military-a-force-adrift/18596571/?sf34440316=1

  • bmac813 Dec 8, 2014

    Is that right. Than why are we sending more troops over to Afghanistan????