THREE YEARS AFTER it began, the final troops of the US surge in Afghanistan have left the country.
President Barack Obama had ordered the surge in late 2009, sending more than 30,000 extra troops to the country in a bid to combat increasing tensions and attacks in the region as the Taliban increased in strength.
US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said the surge had achieved its aims of reversing Taliban momentum on the battlefield.
In a statement, Panetta said the surge in troops had allowed western troops to strike “enormous blows against Al Qaeda’s leadership, consistent with our core goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda and denying it a safe-haven”. He said:
This growth has allowed us and our ISAF Coalition partners to begin the process of transition to Afghan security lead, which will soon extend across every province and more than 75 per cent of the Afghan population.
“We are a nation at war,” Panetta said. “But the international community is also strongly united behind our shared strategy to transition to Afghan security control, which will be completed by the end of 2014″.
Around 68,000 American soldiers remain in Afghanistan. President Obama has said that combat operations will end next year and all troops will have left by the end of 2014.
US troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001.