Taliban hails Dutch withdrawal from Afghanistan

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The Taliban on Wednesday hailed the Dutch troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and urged other NATO countries to follow suit and leave the United States to face "dire consequences" alone.

"The Dutch refused the ... insistence of the United States to extend" their deployment until 2012 as they are "no longer willing to ... continue having" their soldiers killed, said a statement posted on the Taliban's website and carried by US monitoring group SITE.

The Dutch withdrawal could lead "Germany to follow suit," causing other US "allies such as Canada, Australia and Britain (to) view the war in Afghanistan with disappointment, mistrust" and as an "unbearable burden," it said.

"US forces should be left in Afghanistan alone to stew in their own juice and suffer the dire and dangerous consequences of their ... invasion of another country," the group said in the English-language statement.

Dutch troops, who numbered around 1,950, ended their mission in Afghanistan on Sunday after four years.

"We want to wholeheartedly congratulate the citizens and government of the Netherlands for having the courage they have had to take this independent decision," Dutch daily Volkskrant last week quoted a Taliban spokesman as saying.

The Dutch deployment since 2006 has cost the lives of 24 soldiers. NATO's request for an extension of the mission sparked a political row that led to the Netherlands government's collapse in February and the pullout.

NATO and the United States have close to 150,000 troops in the country.

But the mounting death toll of foreign troops has piled political pressure on the United States and its allies as voters grow increasingly weary of the blood price of the war.

Canada is set to withdraw its force of 2,800 troops in Afghanistan next year, while Britain and the United States have signalled that some troops will also leave in 2011 with an overall aim to end combat operations in 2014.

© 2010 AFP

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