U.S. to withdraw troops from Afghanistan
The US will continue to support Afghanistan after withdrawing all US troops, but not ‘militarily’, US President Joe Biden has pledged.
"It is time to end America's longest war," he said in a speech from the White House room where US airstrikes there were first declared in 2001.
The pull-out is to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, officials say.
At least 2,500 US troops are part of the 9,600-strong Nato Afghan mission.
The number of US troops on the ground in Afghanistan fluctuates, and US Media reports the current total is closer to 3,500.
US and Nato officials have said the Taliban, a hard-line Islamist movement, have so far failed to live up to commitments to reduce violence in Afghanistan. In Kabul, Afghan officials say they will continue peace talks in preparation for the withdrawal.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted that he had spoken on the phone with Biden on Wednesday, and that the country "respects the US decision and we will work with our US partners to ensure a smooth transition."
He added that Afghanistan's defence forces "are fully capable of defending its people and country."
He also paid his respects to the victims of the 11 September 2001 attack which triggered the US invasion of Afghanistan.
"We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago," he said.
"That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021."
"We have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us," said Biden, citing the threat of cyber-attacks and rising tensions with China.
"We already have service members doing their duty in Afghanistan today whose parents served in the same war," he added.
"We have service members who were not yet born when our nation was attacked on 9/11. War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking."
Later on Wednesday, Biden will visit Arlington National Cemetery, where some of the 2,488 US troops who died fighting in Afghanistan are buried.
Abdullah Abdullah, head of the Afghanistan High Council for National Reconciliation, said on Wednesday (14) that the news of foreign troops withdrawing means "we need to find a way to co-exist", Reuters news agency reported. "We believe that there is no winner in Afghan conflicts and we hope the Taliban realise that too," he said.