[JURIST] The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) [official website] formally ended its war in Afghanistan [press release] on Sunday after 13 years of conflict. The quiet ceremony in Kabul was arranged in secret due to increasing Taliban strikes in the area, including suicide bombings and gun violence. On January 1 the US-led International Security Assistance Force [official website] will be replaced by a NATO “training and support” mission, wherein nearly 12,500 foreign troops will stay in Afghanistan but will not participate in any direct fighting. Instead, the troops will help the Afghan police and army in their fight against the Taliban.
The US-led War on Terror [JURIST backgrounder] has drawn heavy criticism since US troops entered Afghanistan in 2001. That year, almost 130,000 troops from 50 nations were a part of the NATO alliance. Reported civilian casualties were a source of ongoing tension between NATO forces and the Afghan population throughout their occupation of the country. In November the the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) [official website] reported that there had been 3,188 Afghan civilian casualties [report] in 2014. In February UNAMA reported [JURIST report] 8,615 civilian casualties in 2013, a 14 percent increase since 2012. In October 2013, provincial police in eastern Afghanistan reported [JURIST report] that at least five civilians were killed in a NATO airstrike near Jalalabad. In September former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on [JURIST report] the Afghan government to strengthen human rights efforts in preparation for presidential elections in April 2014, urging the government to give particular attention to the growing rate of civilian casualties.