7 areas to be handed to Afghan forces in July
KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday said the security transition from NATO-led soldiers to Afghan forces would start in seven areas of the country, including the capital of southern Helmand province, in July.
Karzai said Afghan forces would be in charge of security for all of Kabul province, except for Sarubi district, the provinces of Panjsher and Bamyan; Herat city, the capital of western Herat province, Lashkargah, the provincial capital of Helmand, Mehtarlam, the capital of eastern Laghman province and Mazar-i-Sharif, capital of northern Balkh province.
Karzai detailed the transfer at a graduation ceremony of Afghan soldiers at the National Military Academy.
"The people of Afghanistan don't want foreigners to be in charge of security anymore," Karzai said.
During the Kabul Conference in July, 2010, it was agreed that security transition, an issue also discussed at the NATO conference in Lisbon in November of that year, would be completed by 2014.
There are about 140,000 foreign soldiers operating under the command of NATO in Afghanistan, with about 100,000 of them American. The number of Afghan soldiers stands at about 150,000 with another 120,000 Afghan police.
In order to enable Afghan security forces to better protect the country after the withdrawal of foreign soldiers, the president asked the international community to increase the number of Afghan security forces to 370,000.
Karzai said the handover would eventually be extended to districts outside the cities named.
A week back, Afghan Defence Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak proposed a 400,000 strong Afghan security force if NATO countries agreed.
“Transition means taking responsibility for both security and development," Karzai said.
However, he did acknowledge that complete handover of responsibilities in terms of governance, security and reconstruction, to a country that has suffered from more than three decades of war, was a difficult task. He said that foreign interventions were still going on in the country.
But Karzai said the Afghan people had always worked hard for the betterment of the country and he was optimistic that this time, they would embrace the responsibility "with vim and vigour".
After the transition, NATO and the US would be limited to helping with the economic development of the country and equipping and training Afghan security forces.
He said putting an end to the war in Afghanistan was the focus of his government.
"Our arms are still open for those who have no links with Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks and are willing to live a dignified life."
Karzai said that not all of those who had taken up arms against the government were terrorists or affiliated with foreign intelligence networks.
Injustice had turned them against the government, he said.
"I know that people of our country got upset and outraged because of injustices and law-breakings by government officials and the bombardments, house-searches and arrests by coalition forces."
He asked armed opposition groups to stop killing civilians, carrying out suicide attacks and explosions. "Otherwise they (armed opposition groups) are responsible for the presence of foreign forces and continuation of war in Afghanistan," he said.
Karzai reiterated that peace in Afghanistan was beneficial for the entire region and asked neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan, to earnestly support reconciliation efforts.
Afghanistan was not a threat to the independence and security of adjacent nations, he said, asking them to collectively work towards security of the region.
Addressing the issue of the relationship between the US and Afghanistan, Karzai said a traditional Loya Jirga (grand assembly) would be convened soon to determine how Afghanistan should enter into these relations.
However, Afghanistan would set its own conditions for such relationships, which included the directing of international aid through the Afghan government, coordination of UN activities with the government and turning Provincial Reconstruction Teams into aid providers, he said.
"There are a number of UN organisations operating in the country. We have questions regarding their activities and expenditures."
The government had contacted the UN in this regard and hoped an agreement could be reached, he said.
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