KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban on Sunday vowed to force the U.S.-led coalition to abandon Afghanistan before a 2014 date set by the alliance for handing over security responsibility to its allied Afghan forces.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in message e-mailed to the media that NATO will be unable to establish a stable government in Afghanistan by that date. He did not mention an offer from President Hamid Karzai for peace talks and eventual reconciliation — an offer rejected by the hard-line Taliban leadership.
During a weekend summit in Lisbon, Portugal, NATO leaders agreed to begin handing off security responsibility to Afghan security forces in early 2011, with a full transition targeted for the end of 2014. No timetable was set for the gradual transition of Afghanistan's 34 provinces to Afghan control, and some foreign troops are expected to remain in a combat role after 2014, although most will be in a training role.
Mujahid said the Taliban "will not remain silent even for a single night until and unless the goal of complete freedom and the formation of an independent government is achieved. They will not wait for the time of implementation of a given decision or timetable of withdrawal."
NATO officials have said in Kabul that the transition will not necessarily mean troops will be withdrawn, but that they could be moved to regions where they are needed.
President Barack Obama has said a decision to withdraw would be conditional on the situation on the ground. In late 2009, Obama spoke of starting a gradual pullout in July 2011. Obama last year ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to regain ground lost to the Taliban in the years after the U.S.-led invasion of the country one month after the al-Qaida attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. has the largest contingent — about 100,000 troops. Troops from other nations number about 40,000.
"In the past nine years, the invaders could not establish any system of governance in Kabul and they will never be able to do so in future," Mujahid said, adding that until 2014 "various untoward and tragic events and battles will take place as a result of this meaningless, imposed and unwinnable war."
In fighting around Afghanistan, NATO says international and Afghan forces killed about 20 insurgents — some key Taliban operatives — in a series of attacks over the weekend.