The United States Senate has voted overwhelmingly in favor of an accelerated withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after more than a decade of war.
On Friday, the Senate voted 62-33 for a quicker drawdown of the 66,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.
Senator Jeff Merkley, chief sponsor of the accelerated withdrawal, said, “It is time to end this war, end the longest war in United States history.”
A day earlier, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Washington would need to keep its troops in Afghanistan even after the end of the combat mission in 2014 due to the growing presence of al-Qaeda in the country.
“The goal here is an enduring presence therefore that will direct itself toward three important missions. One is obviously counterterrorism to insure that we continue to go after whatever al-Qaeda targets remain in Afghanistan,” Panetta was quoted as saying.
The other two missions cited by the defense secretary are training security forces in Afghanistan and supporting the US military contingent stationed in the war-torn country.
But Merkley warned that al-Qaeda is stronger in other parts of the world than in Afghanistan.
US-led troops and Afghan forces are falling prey to Taliban attacks on an almost daily basis.
According to the website icasualties.org, over 380 foreign troops, mostly US personnel, have lost their lives in Afghanistan in 2012.
The United States and its allies entered the war in Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but after 11 years, the foreign troops have still not been able to establish security in the country.