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Taliban Says U.S. Troop Cut Delay Hurts Peace Prospects

A Taliban spokesman says the U.S. decision to delay the reduction of troops in Afghanistan will badly undermine the chances for peace.

Meeting with Aghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House on March 24, President Barack Obama said the United States would leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan though the end of 2015 instead of cutting the number to 5,500, and would decide on plans for 2016 later this year.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on March 25 that Obama's announcement "damages all prospects for peace."

Mujahid said the U.S. decision "means the war will go on until they are all defeated."

The Taliban have not started peace talks with the Afghan government, but recent reports have suggested both sides were moving closer to talks.

The size of the U.S. force in Afghanistan grew after the 2001 invasion following the September 11 terror attacks and exceeded 100,000 at its peak, but Obama's administration last year announced plans to reduce it to a "normal" embassy presence by the end of 2016.

Ghani, who took office in September, had asked the United States to slow the removal of troops.

Ghani is due to address the U.S. Congress later on March 25.

Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax