Spokesman warns militants will ramp up attacks until foreign troops leave.
The Taliban on Thursday said their forces were prepared to keep fighting until American troops pull out of Afghanistan, after U.S. officials said they would extend their military presence in the country beyond 2016.
A senior U.S. official said President Barack Obama was set to announce a 9,800-strong U.S. force would remain in the conflict-ridden country for much of next year, effectively bequeathing a vexed 14-year war he inherited from George W. Bush to his successor.
During Obama’s 2008 and 2012 election campaigns he pledged to end the war that has now killed more than 2,000 Americans and injured or maimed tens of thousands more. By early 2017, when the 45th president will be sworn in, troop numbers are expected to be about 5,500, rather than 1,000 as planned, an administration official said.
However, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the insurgents would continue to fight on and prompt U.S. forces to exit Afghanistan. “When the attacks continue to mount on the occupiers and when they see they have to spend more money in their meaningless war, they will be forced to change their oppressive policy. Our jihad will continue until the last occupier is expelled,” the spokesman told AFP. “They were the ones who decided to invade Afghanistan. But it will be us who decide when they leave,” he added.
Recent intense fighting has underscored the continued role of American troops in training the still fledgling Afghan forces in vital counterterror operations. Two weeks ago the Taliban scored their biggest military victory since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, capturing the city of Kunduz. It has since been retaken by Afghan forces.