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Afghans rally in Kabul, demand immediate withdrawalof NATO troops.

Summary: Hundreds of people marched through the streets of the Afghan capital Kabul Thursday, demanding the immediate withdrawal of international military forces stationed there ahead of the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion.

KABUL/WASHINGTON: Hundreds of people marched through the streets of the Afghan capital Kabul Thursday, demanding the immediate withdrawal of international military forces stationed there ahead of the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion.

The peaceful demonstration in downtown Kabul was meant to mark the Oct. 7 invasion of Afghanistan 10 years ago, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States.

The U.S. invasion came after Taliban leader Mullah Omar refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, purportedly because of his disbelief that the Al-Qaeda chief was responsible for the attacks and because it went against the Afghan tradition of hospitality and protection of guests.

The demonstrators chanted "no to occupation," and "Americans out" as they marched through the streets holding pictures of Afghans killed in violence, and later burned an American flag. The demonstration was organized by a small left wing party.

"The United States said it came to help the Afghan people and provide a good life to Afghan people, but their true purpose was to occupy our country," said Farzana, a 22-year-old woman who goes by one name. "It is 10 years since the invasion of Afghanistan and all it has left behind is the blood of the Afghan people. We want the U.S. to leave our country."

She added that "suicide attacks, insecurity and corruption are increasing day-by-day."

In Copenhagen, military officials said a Danish soldier was seriously wounded by an explosive device during an operation Thursday in southwestern Afghanistan. The explosion occurred west of a Danish base in Helmand province, the military said, providing no other details.

The Danish Army Operational Command says the soldier was taken by helicopter to a field hospital for treatment.

Also in Helmand, insurgents opened fire on a civilian bus traveling in the Girishk district, killing a man and a child and wounding 16 others, the governor's office reported. And in southern Uruzgan province, a car bomb killed the commander of a highway security force, Wali Jan, as he walked out of his home, the police said.

And in the southern Herat province, two Taliban gunmen shot and killed acting police chief of Shindan district as he was riding his motorcycle. Kahmir Khan was on his way to work when he was attacked, said the governor's spokesman, Mohyaddin Noori.

The U.S.-led coalition currently has more than 130,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, with about 98,000 from the United States.

International forces have begun handing over responsibly for security to Afghan forces and all foreign combat troops are to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. President Barack Obama in July announced that he would withdraw 10,000 troops out of Afghanistan this year and 23,000 more by next September.

A decade of war will pass quietly at the White House this week. Obama plans no public events Friday to mark a moment the nation never really expected. Out of sight and off the minds of millions of Americans, the war is the most prolonged conflict the United States has been engaged in since the Vietnam war.

Obama has gone so far as to declare it "the longest war in American history."

The lack of attention to the 10-year milestone is driven in part by White House thinking that Obama has already helped lead a national reflection on a decade of costly sacrifices and battles.

He did that on the recent anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, the day when many people feel the war unforgettably began.

Yet Obama's handling of the new war milestone also underscores his interest in sticking to an economic message without distraction. Jobs, not war, matter most right now.

The American role in the war is now on pace to last at least 13 years.

Put together, more than 2 million troops have been sent to Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, which began in 2003, including hundreds of thousands of troops who have served more than one tour. Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and about 1,700 in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands more have been wounded.

Obama moved to end the war in Iraq but initially expanded the one in Afghanistan, trying to regain control of the conflict he saw as central to American security.

A recent CBS News poll found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans say the United States should not be involved in Afghanistan, a sharp turnaround from as recently as two years ago, when a majority had supported the U.S. mission there. Almost 7 in 10 people say the war has gone on longer than they had expected.

In terms of the military, 1 in 3 American veterans of the post-9/11 military believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.

Copyright 2011, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Oct 7, 2011
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