KABUL — America’s longest war entered its 12th year Sunday, with the anniversary marked by a Taliban statement claiming that NATO forces are “fleeing Afghanistan” in “humiliation and disgrace.”
The U.S.-led the invasion on Oct. 7, 2001, to topple the Taliban government for harboring Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The Taliban were quickly routed, but launched an insurgency that grew in strength over the years until NATO had an estimated 130,000 troops from 50 countries defending the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
The troops have now begun pulling out, and all foreign combat forces will be withdrawn by the end of 2014, according to a withdrawal schedule agreed by the United States and NATO.
“With the help of Allah, the valiant Afghans under the Jihadi leadership of Islamic Emirate defeated the military might and numerous strategies of America and NATO alliance,” the Taliban said in a statement Sunday.
“And now after eleven years of unceasing terror, tyranny, crimes and savagery, they are fleeing Afghanistan with such humiliation and disgrace that they are struggling to provide an explanation.”
A total of 3,199 NATO soldiers have been killed in the war, more than 2,000 of them Americans. Most deaths occurred in the past five years as Taliban attacks escalated, according to icasualties.com.
Emir dismisses parliament
KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait’s ruler dissolved parliament Sunday, a step toward ending months of political gridlock and calling the second elections this year that could again swing in favor of opposition groups led by Islamist factions.
The move by Kuwait’s Western-allied emir, announced on state-run media, followed a failed attempt last month by the government to overturn a voting district law that appeared to favor the opposition. New elections must now be held within 60 days.
Kuwait is one of America’s most strategic Persian Gulf military allies. Its strategic importance to Washington rose sharply after the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq in December. It is now the hub for U.S. ground forces in the Gulf region, where the United States and its Arab allies seek to counter Iran’s military buildup.
Kuwait has been political limbo for months as the government has tried to challenge the voting system in the February elections, which gave Islamists and allies control of the 50-seat parliament. A stopgap parliament, comprising lawmakers elected in 2009, was installed in June, but it never held any sessions.
Opposition leaders had called on Kuwait’s ruler, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, to end the impasse and call new elections.
Prime minister tours crippled power plant
TOKYO — Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda toured the crippled Fukushima power station Sunday in a show of resolve over the nuclear disaster there, amid strong public scepticism about his energy policy.
Mr. Noda, who reshuffled his Cabinet last week before a possible snap general election, encouraged the crews who worked to contain the plant’s dangerous molten reactors after last year’s earthquake and tsunami.
The quake and tsunami knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi power station’s cooling systems, sparking the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The plant, about 120 miles northeast of Tokyo, has continued releasing radiation into the environment, forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate the region.
“I believe that your work in various places on the frontline has enabled us to embark on efforts to decommission the reactors,” said Mr. Noda, clad in workman’s clothing.
After changing into white protective gear, he went to the power station and inspected a reactor where workers were planning to remove spent nuclear fuel from a storage pool.
Prime minister dumped in no-confidence vote
TRIPOLI — Libya’s parliament Sunday approved a vote of no confidence in the newly elected prime minister, removing him from his post.
Mustafa Abushagur had until Sunday to form a Cabinet or risk losing his job.
His initial list of ministers was criticized for not being diverse.
Mr. Abushagur was Libya’s first elected prime minister after last year’s overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The General National Congress voted 125-44 in favor of removing Mr. Abushagur.
Warplanes buzz Lebanon after drone shot down
BEIRUT — Israeli warplanes swooped low over Lebanese villages Sunday in a menacing show of force apparently aimed at the Hezbollah guerrilla group, after a mysterious raid by an unmanned aircraft that was shot out of Israeli skies over the weekend.
Israel was still investigating Saturday’s incident, but Hezbollah quickly emerged as the leading suspect because it has an arsenal of sophisticated Iranian weapons and a history of trying to deploy similar aircraft.
The Israeli military said the drone approached Israel’s southern Mediterranean coast and flew deep into Israeli airspace before warplanes shot it down about 20 minutes later. Israeli news reports said the drone was not carrying explosives and appeared to be on a reconnaissance mission.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports