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U.S. troops at Bagram Airbase celebrate Christmas Dec 25 2010.

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Uploaded on Dec 27, 2010

U.S. soldiers at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan celebrated Christmas on Saturday (December 25) with a traditional feast, church service and a Santa visit.

Although for many it was yet another Christmas away from home, the morale among the troops was high.

"I have been a way from home for quite a few years and celebrated Christmas away but it's really good to celebrate Christmas with the troops over in Afghanistan. This is where we are needed the most right now," Staff Sergeant Chonte Walker said.

"The message I'd like to send back home to my family is that I love them very much but I am here with the rest of my military brothers and sisters in arms and we are here doing amazing thing in Afghanistan," said Staff Sergeant Stenven Sonnter.

The U.S.-led effort in the region continues to face many challenges as the United States and its allies try to prepare Afghanistan to take over its own security by 2014.

A war strategy review released by U.S. President Barack Obama last week found U.S. and NATO forces were making headway against the Taliban and al Qaeda but serious challenges remain. The report said the Taliban's momentum had been arrested in much of Afghanistan and reversed in some areas.

Seven-hundred foreign troops were killed in 2010 as of December 19, by far the deadliest year of the war since the Taliban were toppled in 2001.

The Taliban are at their strongest since the Islamist regime were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces after the regime refused to hand over al Qaeda militants, including Osama bin Laden, after the September 11 al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

The insurgency has spread out of its traditional strongholds in the south and east over the past two years into once peaceful areas of the north and west. NATO leaders agreed at a summit in Lisbon last month to end combat operations and hand security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

Obama has promised to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from July 2011.

But critics say the 2014 target set by President Hamid Karzai is too ambitious -- and with shortcomings in Afghanistan's security forces, setting a target to begin withdrawing troops only emboldens the insurgents.

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