(CBS News) AP – KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. and NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] have ceremonially ended their combat mission in Afghanistan, 13 years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks sparked their invasion of the country to topple the Taliban*-led government.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, which was in charge of combat operations, lowered its flag Monday, formally ending its deployment.
U.S. Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of NATO and U.S. forces, says the mission is transitioning to a training and support role. He says from Jan. 1, the coalition* will maintain a force of 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak around 140,000 in 2011. [*The coalition is a group of countries who have joined together for the common purpose of defeating the Taliban.]
The mission ends as the Taliban is increasing its attacks. President Obama recently allowed U.S. forces to launch operations against both Taliban and al Qaeda militants amid the training mission.
And an augmentation of the U.S. role in that training mission was announced just days before Monday’s ceremony, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel saying about 1,000 more American troops than initially planned were to remain in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year.
At a news conference with President Ashraf Ghani, Hagel said the original plan to cut U.S. troop levels to 9,800 by the end of 2014 had been abandoned, but not because of the recent surge in Taliban attacks.
Hagel said the U.S. will keep up to 10,800 troops for the first few months of 2015 and then restart the drawdown, which is scheduled to reach 5,500 troops by the end of next year.
The U.S. decided to keep additional forces in the country temporarily because planned troop commitments by U.S. allies for a NATO train-and-assist mission starting in January have been slow to materialize.
Gen. Campbell told reporters in an interview later Saturday that he is confident NATO members will furnish the necessary number of troops for the new training mission, which begins Jan. 1. It’s just going to take a few extra weeks or months to get them in Afghanistan, he said.
Campbell, who took over on Aug. 26 and has served two previous tours in Afghanistan, spoke glowingly of the new government led by Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
“It’s like night and day difference dealing with this government,” compared with the previous government led by Hamid Karzai, who [as president from 2004-Sept. 29, 2014] was often publicly critical of U.S. military efforts against the Taliban insurgency, Campbell said.[*The Taliban emerged from Kandahar in the 1990s and went on to rule the country until being toppled by the U.S.-led invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It has been seeking to re-establish a hard-line Islamic state ever since.]
From an Associated Press report. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from CBSNews. Visit the website at cbsnews .com.
NOTE: Read the “Background” and watch the news report under “Resources” before answering the questions.
1. The first paragraph of a news article should answer the questions who, what, where and when. List the who, what, where and when of this news item. (NOTE: The remainder of a news article provides details on the why and/or how.)
2. How many troops were in Afghanistan in 2011? How many will the coalition maintain after this drawdown?
3. What will the mission transition into? (what was its role; what will the new role be?)
4. a) What was the purpose of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command?
b) Did the U.S./NATO coalition accomplish its goal? How do you know?
5. At a news conference with President Ashraf Ghani, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the original plan to cut U.S. troop levels to 9,800 by the end of 2014 had been abandoned, but not because of the recent surge in Taliban attacks.
For what reason did the number change?
6. President Ghani took over in October after Hamid Karzai ruled Afghanistan for 10 years. How does President Ghani’s administration differ from that of President Karzai, according to Gen. Campbell?
7. Ask a parent:
a) What do you think will happen in Afghanistan now that the combat mission has ended – e.g.: the situation will stay the same, the Afghan army will do as good a job as the U.S. military, things will get worse, etc.
b) Do you support the troop drawdown in Afghanistan? Explain your answer.
On the ISAF:
From a Reuters report on the end of the mission:
An attack on a police headquarters and a drone strike that killed six Taliban fighters were sharp reminders of the problems facing Afghanistan’s fledgling military as the joint command of foreign forces disbanded on Monday.
The Afghan government and the departing NATO troops have tried to put a brave face on the security situation, despite the past 12 months having been the bloodiest since 2001, with thousands of Afghans dying in fighting.
The Taliban has again stepped up attacks across the country as well as in the capital, Kabul, sensing an opportunity as foreign troops wind up their combat missions by Dec 31.
The International Security Assistance Joint Command, which ran the coalition combat operations, held a flag-lowering ceremony on Monday to hand over to a much reduced international support and training mission that begins on Jan. 1.
Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, outgoing chief of the joint command, said he was confident the Afghan police and army could prevent the Taliban regaining territory next year.
“This country is safer and more prosperous than ever,” he said. “The insurgents have been beaten back and the Afghan National Security Forces are carrying the fight to the enemy.”
The back page of the program for the ceremony belied this projection of safety and security, however. It advised attendees to lie on the ground if insurgents launched a rocket attack.
Civilian casualties were up by 24 percent in the first half of the year to 4,853, according to the United Nations. About 4,600 members of the Afghan security forces were killed as of November, up more than 6 percent over the corresponding period of 2013.