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    ISAF command in north changes hands

    MAZAR-I-SHARIF (PAN): A new International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander in the north on Thursday identified maintaining security in the zone as his top priority before the withdrawal of German forces.

    After a year of commanding ISAF troops in the north, Major General Erich Pfeffer handed over charge to Brigadier General Jorg Vollmer at Camp Marmal in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province.

    The incoming commander told reporters in Mazar-i-Sharif that German troops would gradually pull out because Afghan forces were capable of securing areas the northern zone, including Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Faryab, Jawzjan, Kunduz, Sari Pul, Samangan and Takhar provinces.

    He said: “To us, the withdrawal of our troops is not more important than security of the north. Secondly, German forces would quit gradually after evaluating the ground situation.”

    Vollmer added ISAF would continue to train Afghan forces beyond 2014, when the combat campaign would turn into a mission of advising and assisting the local security personnel.

    During next year’s presidential and provincial council elections, multinational troops would help Afghan forces in securing polling stations across the country, he promised.

    myn/mud