Global General

Afghan forces to control 7 areas

By Deb Riechmann (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-23 09:07
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KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday that his security forces will soon take charge of securing seven areas around Afghanistan - the first step toward his goal of having Afghan police and soldiers protecting the entire nation by the end of 2014.

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In a speech peppered with criticism of the international effort, Karzai said the provincial capitals of Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan, Herat in the west, Mazer-e-Sharif in the north and Mehterlam in the east are slated for transition from NATO-led forces to Afghan soldiers and police beginning in July.

In addition, all of Bamiyan and Panjshir provinces, which have seen little to no fighting, are on the transition list. Also slated for transition is Kabul province except for the restive Surobi district, which is along a main route to the Pakistan border and in proximity to dangerous areas of neighboring provinces, he said.

"The Afghan nation doesn't want the defense of this country to be in the hands of others anymore ... This is our responsibility to raise our flag with honor and pride," Karzai told hundreds of dignitaries and Afghan police and soldiers at the National Military Academy of Afghanistan in the capital.

Afghan forces to control 7 areas

The NATO forces currently in the lead or partnered with Afghan forces in these areas will thin out, take on support roles such as training and mentoring, redeploy to other areas or go home. President Barack Obama has said that he wants the US to start withdrawing troops in July if conditions allow. Karzai's goal is to have his forces responsible for protecting and defending their homeland in about three and a half years.

"This process will expand from capitals to the provinces." Karzai said. "We will soon announce others for the second phase of the transition."

He struck a nationalistic chord in his speech in which he reiterated his call for the Taliban to join the peace process.

Karzai complained about the international civilian and military community, saying its development effort was disjointed and night raids, civilian casualties and irresponsible arrests have bolstered the insurgency.

A series of recent air strikes that have led to the death of numerous civilians have seriously eroded relations between Karzai and the US-led military coalition. The death of civilians must end, he said.

Karzai said the international community should provide financial assistance for vital infrastructure projects even as he argued that the provincial reconstruction teams, meant to train government officials and assist their activities at the local level, should be phased out.

Associated Press