The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force ended its 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan on Sunday.
From Jan. 1, 2015, the mission will evolve into training and advising the nascent Afghan security forces. The 13,000 foreign troops for the Resolute Support Mission will come from 28 NATO allies and 14 other partner nations.
During the past decade, Afghanistan once hosted as many as 140,000 troops from around 51 countries; some 3,500 of them lost their lives fighting the enduring insurgency. Over 2,000 were Americans. The war has cost the U.S. around $1 trillion so far, according to the Financial Times.
In a statement released on Sunday regarding the commencement of the new NATO mission in Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed continued support by the alliance to Afghanistan.
"At the end of this year, we complete our combat mission in Afghanistan and open a new chapter in our relationship with Afghanistan,” he said. Stoltenberg added that the security of Afghanistan will be fully in the hands of the 350,000 Afghan soldiers and police forces.
The NATO chief praised the capabilities of the Afghan forces and the determination by the international community to stand by Afghanistan. He also reaffirmed the alliance’s continued financial support to Afghan security forces.
"We will also contribute to the financing of the Afghan security forces, and build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan which reflects our joint interests, shapes our joint cooperation and contributes to our shared security,” the statement by Stoltenberg said.
In Washington, President Barack Obama hailed the "milestone" end to the combat mission, and pledged continued American assistance for Afghan forces.
"We honor the profound sacrifices that have made this progress possible," he said. "Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and the Afghan people and their security forces continue to make tremendous sacrifices in defense of their country.
The American President said that US forces in the country "will continue to face risks, but this reflects the enduring commitment of the United States to the Afghan people and to a united, secure and sovereign Afghanistan that is never again used as a source of attacks against our nation."
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force started operations in Afghanistan in August 2003, nearly two years after the US-led invasion which toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Though Kabul, Brussels and Washington enjoy much better ties after the signing of Bilateral Security Agreement and the Status of Force Agreement, the matter of NATO and U.S. leftover military equipment is yet to be resolved.
The Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, has not raised the matter publicly, but there are worries over the possible shipment of heavy military machinery to Ukraine instead of leaving it for the Afghan forces. President Ghani is scheduled to visit Washington next month to discuss this and various other matters.