Taliban dismiss 'symbolic' US troop announcement

KABUL, June 23, 2011 (AFP) - The Taliban dismissed President Barack Obama's announcement of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan as "only as a symbolic step," in a statement released Thursday.

The Taliban "considers this announcement, which currently withdraws 10,000 soldiers this year, only as a symbolic step which will never satisfy the war-weary international community or the American people," it said.

The statement, emailed to media by Taliban spokesman Tariq Ghazniwal, also accused the United States of "repeatedly giving false hopes to its nation about ending this war and claiming baselessly about victory".

The Taliban said the solution to the Afghan crisis "lies in the full withdrawal of all foreign troops immediately" and said that until that happened "our armed struggle will increase from day to day".

It made no reference to contacts with the Americans. Afghan president Hamid Karzai announced last week talks were underway and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said US officials are involved in preliminary talks with the Taliban.

The militants accused Obama of having "no respect" for demands to end the war given US-Afghan government negotiations over a strategic partnership agreement which will forge a long-term relationship between the two.

Obama announced Wednesday that 10,000 US troops would leave Afghanistan this year and all 33,000 forces sent as part of a surge ordered in late 2009 would be home by next summer.

As he made the announcement, he said that "the tide of war is receding" and "the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance."

The Taliban is leading an insurgency against foreign troops in Afghanistan which started in 2001 when they were ousted from power by a US-led invasion.

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