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The War in Afghanistan Officially Ended Today — But Not All US Troops Are Coming Home

A small military flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul this morning marked the official end of the US and NATO’s 13-year war in Afghanistan.
Photo by Massoud Hossaini/AP

A small military flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul this morning marked the official end of the US and NATO's 13-year war in Afghanistan.

US Gen. John Campbell commemorated the soldiers that were lost during the war fought to unseat the Taliban and secure the country from insurgents, the Associated Press reported.

There were 2,224 American soldiers killed during the war, out of roughly 3,500 total foreign troop deaths. An estimated 21,000 Afghan civilians have been killed during the conflict, including nearly 3,200 in 2014.


The ceremony also marks the official end of the amount spent by the US on the war, which is estimated at $1 trillion, in addition to $100 billion in rebuilding costs, according to the AP. The amount spent in Afghanistan will still increase, however, as US forces remain in the country to continue training the Afghan military and the US continues providing aid to the Afghan government.

Afghanistan: What We're Leaving Behind. Watch the VICE News documentary here.

President Barack Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, released a statement saying today marks a "responsible conclusion" to the war.

Obama thanked and praised US forces for "devastating" al Qaeda's leadership, killing Osama bin Laden, and "disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives." The president touted Afghanistan's recent elections as a sign that US and NATO forces helped the country "reclaim its communities."

The statement also pointed out that when Obama took office there were nearly 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now there are fewer than 15,000 in both countries combined. In 2010, however, Obama increased the number of troops to 140,000 in Afghanistan alone as part of a counterinsurgency "surge." Going forward, about 11,000 US troops will stay in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan remains a dangerous place," Obama said. "At the invitation of the Afghan government, and to preserve the gains we have made together, the United States — along with our allies and partners — will maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist Afghan forces, and to conduct counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda."


The Afghan Interpreters. Watch the VICE News documentary here.

Campbell rolled up and sheathed the flag of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) during the ceremony today. ISAF was the military force comprised of soldiers from NATO countries.

A new NATO security force — dubbed "Resolute Support" — will replace ISAF effective January 1. The majority of the force will be US soldiers tasked with training Afghanistan's military and performing counterterrorism work against the Taliban and al Qaeda for at least the next two years.

Campbell reportedly told the audience that "the road before us remains challenging but we will triumph."

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani authorized the US and NATO to have an ongoing military presence in Afghanistan, which the Taliban has claimed is a reason to increase their attacks.

Attacks on Afghan police and military forces increased this year ahead of the official end of the war, with around 5,000 deaths so far, according to the AP. It has been the deadliest year in Afghanistan since 2008.

Follow Colleen Curry on Twitter: @currycolleen