KABUL Cheap Corey Dickerson Jersey , Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Fourteen years have passed since the costly U.S.-led war on terror began that involved invading the Taliban regime on charges of harboring al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and eventually led to the hardliner outfit being ousted.
The U.S. military campaign from the air and ground began on October 7, 2001 and saw the Taliban regime dismissed within a month from areas across Afghanistan, leaving thousands of Taliban and al-Qaida militants killed, injured or captured in the process.
However, the Taliban and like-minded outfits have made a violent comeback and the wave of terror will continue to haunt Afghans for years to come, Afghan political watchers believe.
"After 14 years of the U.S.-led war on terror, terrorists are still active in Afghanistan and kill innocent people almost every day, therefore we can say that the war on terror has failed to root out terrorism," Sayed Masoud, a political analyst and Kabul University professor, told Xinhua.
Nevertheless, he was of the view, that the U.S.-led war on terror and international community's engagement in Afghanistan over the past 14 years has facilitated the war-ravaged country's rebuilding of its army, parliament and government.
To win the war on terror and ensure lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan, the U.S.-led NATO forces had deployed more than 140,000 troops in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
However, the NATO-led coalition forces ended their combat mission in late December 2014 and withdrew from Afghanistan leaving behind 13,000 troops to train and advise Afghan national forces.
Thereafter, the Taliban and like-mined militant groups have intensified their activities and challenged the Afghan security forces by opening fronts in different provinces and capturing some districts.
Taliban fighters recently overran major parts of the strategically important Kunduz city, the capital of Kunduz province along the border with Tajikistan on Sept. 29 and the government forces have yet to wipe out the militants and ensure law and order there.
And the U.S.'s assistance to Afghan forces hasn't always been smooth sailing, as with the recent bombing of a Medicine Sans Frontier hospital last Saturday, which killed 22 people including 12 hospital staff and injured 37 others including some patients, while 24 hospital staff are still unaccounted for.
Taliban militants have also penetrated into parts of Badakhshan province which borders Pakistan, China and Tajikistan.
Afghan observers believe that the U.S.-led coalition's war on terror has paved the ground to further spread religious extremism in Afghanistan and the wider region.
According to observers, in 2001, the Taliban and al-Qaida networks were still active in Afghanistan, but 14 years after launching the U.S.-led war on terror, in addition to the Taliban and al-Qaida, more terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State (IS) commonly known here as Daesh, the Haqqani network, Jandullah and other extremist groups have emerged in the militancy- plagued country.
Besides the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, Afghanistan has also topped the list of drug producing countries since launching the war on terror, Afghan analyst Masoud said.
"The failure to eliminate terrorism has enabled terrorist groups to grow in Afghanistan and that is why today there are more terrorist groups such as Daesh fighting alongside Taliban militants to destabilize the region," Nazari Pariani, another political watcher and editor-in-chief at the Daily Mandegar newspaper, told Xinhua.
The war on terror will take more time than expected and Afghans will further suffer at the hand of terrorists, the analyst added.
WELLINGTON, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand and the European Union have taken "a critical first step" towards a free trade agreement (FTA) with a commitment to start formal negotiations, Prime Minister John Key said Friday.
In a joint statement, Key, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk agreed to start discussions on a comprehensive FTA.
The discussions would focus on the next steps required to formally launch negotiations, including the scope and overall approach.
"The EU and New Zealand share a strong and close bond, and today's discussions have underlined our mutual desire to further strengthen our relationship," said Key, who is in Europe, in a statement from his office.
"I am pleased that we are able to announce a critical first step towards a FTA that should provide greater access to European markets, and make it easier for Kiwi and EU companies to do business with one another."
The announcement built on the EU's recently revised Trade Policy Strategy, which set out an increased focus on the Asia-Pacific region, and followed the conclusion of an FTA with the Republic of Korea and the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
"The EU is a key trading partner for New Zealand with two-way trade totalling over 19 billion NZ dollars (12.73 billion U.S. dollars). It is also our second-largest investment source, as well as our largest research and development partner."
A statement from the delegation of the European Union to New Zealand indicated the difficulties faced by New Zealand's pillar agriculture sector in getting open access to the EU market.
"In parallel to the preparatory talks with New Zealand and ahead of seeking a mandate from EU member states for engaging formally in the negotiations, the Commission will assess the potential impact of the future agreement on EU interests, also taking into account the sensitivities in the EU farming sector," it said.
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