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After 13 years, a major mission for U.S. forces and others in Afghanistan came to its official end with little fanfare this weekend.
And, as Jeffrey Brown reports, there are major doubts as to whether the country is now capable of fighting a resurgent Taliban.
A subdued ceremony in Kabul brought a formal close Sunday to the longest war in American history.
GEN. JOHN CAMPBELL, Commander, International Security Assistance Force:
Today, NATO completes its combat mission, a 13-year endeavor filled with significant achievements and branded by tremendous sacrifice.
The conflict began with a U.S.-led invasion in October 2001, less than a month after the 9/11 attacks. The assault quickly ousted the Taliban from power, but fighting continued as the American focus shifted to Iraq.
Then, in 2009, President Obama ordered a surge, and U.S. force levels peaked in 2010 with 140,000 troops. Since then, the U.S. combat role has wound down after a tremendous cost in both blood and money. More than 2,200 Americans been killed over the course of the Afghan war. Another 22,000 were wounded. And to date, the war effort has cost the U.S. Treasury $1 trillion.
Now, though, the Taliban is mounting its own resurgence, making 2014 the war's deadliest year, with 5,000 Afghan security forces killed, including four just today. It's a daunting challenge for the country's new president, Ashraf Ghani.
PRESIDENT ASHRAF GHANI, Afghanistan (through interpreter):
If the insurgents, with their terrorist acts, want us to ignore the peace movement, they are wrong. Or if they think that by their terrorist acts they can weaken our intentions, they need to know that people of Afghanistan have a unified intention and they will never surrender to terror acts.
Still, thousands of Afghans have fled the violence and now face a harsh winter in makeshift camps like these in Kabul. In a bid to bolster the regime, some 13,000 foreign troops, mostly Americans, will remain in Afghanistan next year.
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