US, NATO Ceremonially End Afghan Combat Mission
Flag has been lowered but fighting will go on
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 8, 2014 3:30 AM CST
ISAF honor guards take part in a flag-lowering ceremony north of Kabul International Airport today.   (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
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(Newser) – The US and NATO have ceremonially ended their combat mission in Afghanistan, 13 years after the 9/11 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 today, formally ending its deployment. US Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of NATO and US forces, says the mission will now 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 says. "They have to make some changes in the leadership, which they're doing, and they have to hold people accountable." He says from Jan. 1, the coalition will maintain a force of 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of around 140,000 in 2011. But the mission ends as the Taliban is increasing its attacks. President Obama recently allowed US forces to launch operations against both Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, broadening the mission of the US forces that will remain in the country after the end of the year.