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Switzerland ends military mission in Afghanistan

The last Swiss staff officers serving in Afghanistan have returned to Switzerland, ending the country's four years of cooperation with the Nato-led international force.

The Swiss defence ministry said on Saturday that the last two officers had come home from the northeastern Kunduz province two weeks ago, in accordance with the plan announced by Defence Minister Samuel Schmid in November.

"The two Swiss officers could no longer carry out their mission effectively because of the measures taken by the troops for their own protection," the ministry said in a press release.

"In areas where the Taliban have stepped up their presence, it has become practically impossible to carry out reconstruction work," it explained.

The officers had been working with a German team. The mission was part of the International Security Assistance Force which operates under a UN mandate to help the Afghan government extend its influence in order to create the necessary conditions for stabilisation and reconstruction.

The Swiss military mission in Afghanistan started in 2003. Since then a total of 31 officers, including three doctors, have worked in the Hindu Kush.

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