KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban on Sunday urged all NATO nations in Afghanistan to follow France's lead and pull their forces from the war.
The call came in a three-page statement released just as heads of state opened the NATO summit in Chicago to talk about the future of Afghanistan.
The Taliban also on Sunday took responsibility for a suicide bombing in southern Afghanistan.
The newly elected president of France has said he will withdraw all French combat troops from Afghanistan by year's end — a full two years before the timeline agreed to by nations in U.S.-led NATO coalition.
"The declaration of the new president of France, Francois Hollande, that all its troops will be removed from Afghanistan at the end of this year is a decision based on realities and a reflection of the opinion of its nation," the Taliban said in an English version of the statement posted on its Web site.
The Taliban often issues long statements addressed to world opinion during international conferences dealing with Afghanistan.
"We call upon all the other NATO member countries to avoid working for the political interests of American officials and answer the call of your own people by immediately removing all your troops from Afghanistan," the insurgent group said.
It cited a recent New York Times/CBS News poll that found that 69 percent of Americans thought the U.S. should not be at war in Afghanistan.
"So the NATO member countries who claim to be the elected representatives of its people and consider their government the people's government — by the people, for the people — how will they answer the call of their people in this summit?" the Taliban asked.
The Taliban also reiterated U.S. estimates that few al-Qaida fighters remain in Afghanistan.
Routing al-Qaida from Afghanistan has been a key basis for U.S. involvement in the decade-long war.
"The American intelligence networks, including the CIA, state that members of al-Qaida have all left Afghanistan and that there are not more than 50 left, therefore the military presence of America is not for its own security, but a long-term strategy for turning our country and the region into its colony." American officials have given an estimate of less than 100 al-Qaida members.
The United States has denied being an occupying force and has said that it has no interest in establishing long-term military bases in Afghanistan. However, a U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership document signed this month gives the U.S. the option of keeping forces in Afghanistan after nearly all international combat troops withdraw by 2014. Any such force would serve two specific purposes: training of Afghan forces and operations against al-Qaida.
Officials have previously said as many as 20,000 U.S. special operations forces and other troops could remain after the combat mission ends, but that still must still be negotiated.