KABUL. Afghanistan — The Taliban on Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by saying that US forces were now fleeing the country in a similarly undignified exit.
The final Soviet troops left Afghanistan on Feb. 15, 1989, after 10 years of bloody occupation that were followed by civil war and the emergence of the Islamist Taliban movement that took Kabul in 1996.
"Today America is facing the same fate as the former Soviet Union and is trying to escape from our country," the Taliban, who have fought a fierce insurgency since being ousted in 2001, said in an emailed statement.
"We want to remind the Americans that as we did not accept invaders with their nice slogans in the past and we eliminated them from the world map."
The U.S.-led NATO military mission is due to end this year, but negotiations between Kabul and Washington could mean that about 10,000 US troops stay in Afghanistan after 2014 on training and counter-terrorism operations.
The deal to allow the residual U.S. force has been the subject of months of bitter public wrangling between President Hamid Karzai and US officials.
Karzai has ruled Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, surviving assassination attempts and the treacherous currents of Afghan political life as billions of dollars of military and development aid poured into the country.
He is barred from seeking a third term in office, leaving an open field to compete in elections in April.
Taliban insurgents have threatened to target the election campaign, and the Afghan police and army face a major challenge with little support from the dwindling number of foreign troops.
As 50,000 NATO troops draw down after more than a decade of war, the number of civilians killed and wounded in Afghanistan rose 14 percent last year, the U.N. said last week.
Most of the casualties to women and children were caused by "ground engagements" and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the Taliban's weapon of choice.
More than one million Afghans and 13,000 Soviet troops were killed during the Soviet occupation. At least five million Afghans also fled the country.