Dec 28, 3:12 AM EST

US, NATO to mark end of mission to Afghanistan

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US, NATO to mark end of mission to Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The United States and NATO will mark the formal end of the war in Afghanistan on Sunday with a ceremony at their military headquarters in Kabul as the insurgency they fought for 13 years remains as ferocious and deadly as at any time since the 2001 invasion that unseated the Taliban regime following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The symbolic ceremony will mark the end of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, which will transition to a supporting role with 13,500 soldiers, most of them American, starting Jan. 1.

President Ashraf Ghani, who took office in September, signed bilateral security agreements with Washington and NATO allowing the enduring military presence. The move led to an intensification of the insurgency as the Taliban have claimed it as an excuse to step up operations against his government.

ISAF was set up after the U.S.-led invasion to provide an umbrella for the coalition of around 50 nations that provided troops and took responsibility for security across the country.

It ends with 2,224 American soldiers killed, according to an AP tally, out of a total of some 3,500 foreign troop deaths.

The mission peaked at 140,000 troops in 2010 with a surge ordered by U.S. President Barack Obama to root the insurgents out of strategically important regions, notably in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, where the Taliban had its capital from 1996 to 2001.

ISAF will segue into Resolute Support, a training and support mission that will also provide battlefield backup for the Afghan forces for at least the next two years.

Insurgent violence in Wardak province killed two teenage boys late on Saturday, when a rocket was fired near a children's volleyball match in Nirkh district, an official said.

Another five children, aged between 11 and 14 years old, were wounded by shrapnel, said the governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani.

The United Nations says civilian casualties will hit 10,000 for the year, mostly caused by the Taliban.

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