Kabul hails extension of US military mission in Afghanistan

KABUL: Afghan government welcomed the US decision to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan past 2016, vowing to respond to a resurgent Taliban “with full force” even as the rebels promised to wage war until the last American soldier leaves.


President Barack Obama´s decision Thursday to keep a 9,800-strong US force in Afghanistan through much of next year came as he admitted that Afghan forces were not ready to stand alone.

Calling the plan “the right thing to do”, Obama acknowledged “Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be”.

“As commander in chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again,” he said in a televised address.

Afghanistan´s President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the decision, saying in a statement late Thursday that his government “will respond to fear and terror with full force”, but adding that it will keep “ajar the door to peace”.

On Friday, he visited troops in northern Kunduz city, which was briefly captured by the Taliban in an offensive launched last month which was the insurgent´s greatest military victory since 2001, sending shockwaves through the country.

“I take pride in you, thank you for your sacrifices and for your patriotism,” he said at a ceremony where he issued medals for bravery for those involved in retaking the provincial capital.

Intense fighting has spread in recent weeks to other parts of the country, underscoring the continued role of US troops in training the still fledgling Afghan forces and conducting vital counterterror operations.