"This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over," Obama said, adding that al-Qaida was no longer the threat it was on Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. invaded less than a month later to rout al-Qaida in Afghanistan and overthrow its Taliban supporters.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid also welcomed the drawdown, but said it wasn't enough. The coalition, he said, should leave immediately.
"The Western governments must realize that their baseless war in Afghanistan had no benefit for them," Mujahid said in a statement. "Thousands of their soldiers were killed, disabled or faced psychological problems. Billions of dollars were spent, which affected their economies. Their people are faced with poverty and other problems. Now it is time for America and all other countries to put an end to this baseless war in Afghanistan and withdraw their troops."
In some of the country's eastern provinces, where coalition forces have been fighting a resurgent Taliban with mixed success, some people were worried.
Aziza Maisam, a female member of the provincial council in eastern Ghazni province, said she was worried about the fate of women if the Taliban should make a comeback.
"I heard the news this morning and I was thinking of the effect it would have on women. The situation is bad and insecure in Ghazni province. It is a premature decision by Obama to withdraw the troops," she said. "The foreign troops are very necessary. The fighting is not over as President Obama said."
She said it is too early for U.S. troops to leave because the country is still not safe.
"My province is an example," she said. "After 5 p.m. you can't leave Ghazni city."
Associated Press writer Patrick Quinn contributed from Kabul.
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